Many of these students land in the Washington region. Several schools in Maryland and the District have more students from New Jersey than from Virginia. Public universities consider these students especially valuable because they pay higher out-of-state tuition. Private colleges like New Jersey, too, because their recruiters can garner many applications from a small area.
“A lot of them would go broke without our students,” said Paul R. Shelly, a spokesman for the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities.
In fall 2008, 31,510 recent high school graduates left New Jersey to enroll as freshmen at four-year colleges, according to the latest federal data. Meanwhile, 4,167 students arrived in the state. New Jersey’s outflow of students is the largest of any state.
On the same measure, Virginia had a net gain of about 3,000 students in 2008, and the District had a net gain of about 6,300. Maryland had a net drain of about 8,600.
It’s not that New Jersey students don’t have options at home. Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, is a top-tier research institution that has become more selective in recent years. There are another nine public four-year colleges and even more private schools, including Princeton University.
But those schools don’t have the capacity for all of the state’s college-bound teenagers. And, as for many college-bound students across the country, there is also the allure of hitting the road for a few years.
At the University of Maryland, New Jersey’s 1,800 undergraduates form the largest out-of-state contingent. During spring and winter breaks, the university runs shuttle buses between College Park and two spots in New Jersey. At Towson University in Baltimore County, 80 percent of undergraduates come from Maryland and 7 percent from New Jersey.
At Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, New Jersey is often the No. 1 feeder state for freshmen classes — so officials weren’t too surprised when a star from a Bravo reality show, “Real Housewives of New Jersey,” asked last summer for a tour for her child and a camera crew. (The university turned down the request.)
George Washington University, in the District, has a regional recruiting office in New Jersey. At freshman orientation in June, the GWU student body president asked how many students were from Jersey. He laughed when a sea of hands shot up. “Some things never change,” he said.
At Catholic University, also in the District, New Jersey was the second most popular state of origin for the latest freshmen class, just behind Maryland and way ahead of Virginia. The school dedicates three of its 10 admissions counselors to canvassing New Jersey every fall. One of them, Patrick Ratke, logged hundreds of miles on a rental car, visiting dozens of schools and staffing booths at college fairs.