Choosing a college is an exciting and sometimes frightening decision for every high school senior and their family. That is true under normal circumstances and even more so during a global pandemic. For New Jersey students approaching their May 1 decision day, I would suggest that staying in-state is a particularly smart option this year.
New Jersey has always been a great place for higher education. No other state has as many PhDs per square mile, and our research universities have produced a staggering range of discoveries. At Rutgers alone, in recent years, these innovations include advancements in fighting cancer, an underwater drone to assist the Coast Guard, a smart city testbed for self-driving cars, and global forecasting for hurricanes.
Rutgers and our peer universities around the state have quickly adapted to the coronavirus emergency and are educating our students through remote instruction this spring and summer. We are committed to helping our students stay on pace to graduate on time, keeping their education expenses to a minimum.
Right here you can benefit from world-class programs in the humanities and cognitive sciences, pursue professions in communications, social work, and education, and contribute to the inventions bubbling up in our laboratories. In the class joining Rutgers this fall, we are inaugurating the first cohort of innovation fellows, some of the boldest minds to pursue new frontiers of innovation, entrepreneurship, and social impact.
Ranked among the Top 3 public research universities in the Northeast, Rutgers-New Brunswick has become a highly selective institution — but without compromising our commitment to access and equity. Equally important, we are about results. Our four-year graduation rates are more than 20% higher than the national average, and the graduation rate for Black students is 40% higher than the national average.
There is perhaps no better time than now to tell you about the kind of faculty scholars at work in the Garden State. These are women and men at the top of their fields who not only produce excellence in the classroom but also contribute to the great good through their research.
This month, Rutgers has been cited prominently for advancing the world’s first saliva test for COVID-19. This breakthrough exemplifies how new innovations build on merging diverse disciplines. Rutgers has also established a COVID-19 Center to coordinate the university’s myriad research, public health and outreach efforts to fight the pandemic. I envision that students who work in these laboratories and centers will become the change-agents who will lead the next generation of biomedical breakthroughs.
While the reasons to choose a state public higher education institution are many, we understand that the benefits of college life extend beyond the classroom as well. Any number of New Jersey’s colleges or universities offer a unique campus experience that allows students to engage with one another, form new friendships and participate in campus activities. But unlike college campuses around the country, for New Jersey residents they also provide easier access to the safety and security of home and family. And at a time when so much uncertainty abounds, this sense of closeness and security may be worth its weight in gold to New Jersey families.
So let me say this to our state’s graduating seniors whose last months of high school are unlike anything they ever could have imagined and whose journey to college may be taking a different path…to the current college student who is unsure about what to do or where to return in the fall…and to the parents whose worry is weighing heavy in this uncertain time: Now remains the opportune time to focus on education. The know-how, experiences, and practical skills learned today will endure a lifetime.
Rutgers University remains as excited as ever to welcome its new class with renewed purpose and with its innovative spirit. We look forward to having you join us.
Christopher J. Molloy is the chancellor of Rutgers University–New Brunswick.
This piece originally appeared in NJ.com