Choose unveils program to keep top students in state

Andrew Sheldon//January 11, 2016

Choose unveils program to keep top students in state

Andrew Sheldon//January 11, 2016

It’s no secret: New Jersey has a student retention issue.
In fact, nearly half of New Jersey’s high school graduates are leaving state to pursue higher education.

Choose New Jersey CEO and President Michele Brown wants to do something about that.

“That loss of the best and the brightest is completely antithetical to our mission at Choose New Jersey,” she said. “Anything we can do as an organization to keep our talent here is good for our future, businesses.”

With that goal in mind, Choose New Jersey last week announced the launch of pilot programs for its new Smart Students initiative at Audible’s headquarters in Newark.

The pilot programs, launched in Newark and Camden, will incentivize top-performing students from 44 schools to attend a New Jersey college by offering them a one-time $2,000 scholarship and paid summer jobs at participating businesses for the summers after their freshman, sophomore and junior years.

“This program is being piloted here in Newark for its first year and, we hope that with lessons learned, we will be able to expand it throughout some of our other urban centers throughout the state,” Brown said.

And stem the tide of student migration.

Brown feels the when the state loses students to out-of-state colleges, the chances of them coming back to New Jersey as professionals are diminished.

“It stands to reason that, if they leave New Jersey to go to college, it’s more likely that they’re going to take their first jobs out of state, too, and decide to relocate and build their families there,” she said. “That means, for us, that we’ll lose some of our best and brightest.”

Businesses participating in this program to keep students in the state include Audible, PSE&G, Atlantic City Electric, PNC Bank, Ferring Pharmaceuticals, Hackensack University Health Network, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey and others.

PSE&G President and COO Ralph LaRossa, who serves as the chair at Choose New Jersey, said the program addressed one of the major issues in the state.

“We have to get the message out about the great opportunities these schools have that they provide for children,” he said. “That’s part of why Choose New Jersey took on this effort: We want to get the word out and show to children in the state of New Jersey that this is a good place to grow up, to be educated and, then, it’s a good place to come work for companies like (Audible CEO) Don (Katz)’s, where they’re cutting-edge and have such a great environment for people to come to work.”

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said the program helps to address many of the issues that face communities such as Newark.

“This initiative is not only creative, but it’s exactly what we need in creating the pipeline that we’re trying to create from school to career,” he said. “This is definitely a homerun in that area.”

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