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President's Post #55: Immigration Policy, Higher Education, and NJ's Economy

In coordination with Partnership for A New American Economy, my office, along with many of the presidents at our sister New Jersey institutions, endorsed the letter below regarding the impact of current immigration policy on the state’s higher education system and economic growth. 

Dear New Jersey Congressional Delegation:

As leaders of New Jersey’s universities educating the next generation of entrepreneurs, scientists, and global pioneers, we call on you to address a critical threat to America’s preeminence as the center of innovation and prosperity: our inability under current United States immigration policy to retain and capitalize on the talented individuals we are training in our universities.

Fixing our immigration system will be critical to scientific growth at New Jersey’s universities and economic growth in our state. In 2009, 51 percent of the students earning Master’s or PhDs in STEM fields from New Jersey’s research-intensive universities were temporary residents, a group with no clear path to stay in America after graduation. 70 percent of our students earning engineering PhDs in recent years were also non-citizens.

Foreign-born students create jobs for New Jersey and often provide the technological innovations that drive economic growth in the state. A recent study by the Partnership for a New American Economy and the American Enterprise Institute found that for every 100 foreign-born graduates of a US Master’s or PhD program who stay in America working in a S TEM field, 262 jobs are created for American workers. But in New Jersey, our share of foreign-born STEM advanced degree holders working in STEM fields decreased by 17 percent between 2000 and 2010. Our students often go on to start companies, which support communities and create jobs. Immigrants are more than twice as likely to start a business and immigrant-owned businesses in New Jersey generate about $6.2 billion in income for the state each year.

New Jersey is already making significant investments in our higher educational institutions, and ultimately our future workforce, through the $750 million Building Our Future bonds approved by the voters last November, plus almost $567 million made available from other capital facilities bond programs. This total of over $1.3 billion is the first significant investment in higher education facilities in New Jersey in 25 years. These capital investments will help attract the best students to New Jersey from around the world for training in engineering, sciences, and technology. But our outdated immigration policy prevents them from staying here after graduation. In effect, we are forcing our newly trained innovators and entrepreneurs to invest, build businesses, and create jobs outside of the United States.

Our educational institutions thrive when all of New Jersey’s industries thrive and research shows that passing immigration reform will benefit all sectors of the state’s economy. Our $987 million agriculture sector needs workers in order to grow and expand. Immigration reform would mean more jobs for U.S. citizens and immigrants and greater production capacities for the state’s agricultural businesses. In the housing sector, immigrants increased home values in New Jersey between 2000 and 2010 – by $3,715 for the median home in Bergen County.

Many of our future bright students came to this country as children and have been unable to take advantage of an American education and contribute to our economy because of their status. A recent study found that incentivizing these children to pursue college education by passing the DREAM Act would add 1.4 million jobs and generate $329 billion in economic activity over the next 20 years. In fact, creating a pathway to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants will have a positive effect for New Jersey’s economy. According to a study by Regional Economic Models, Inc., for every person who enrolls, an estimated $3,117 will be added to our Gross State Product by 2020.

Our current immigration system creates real obstacles to growth. Low limits on high-skilled visas leave immigrants with no way to stay after earning a diploma or they face untenable delays for a permanent visa. Low limits on low-skilled visas leave farmers struggling to find the workers they need to produce and grow. Meanwhile, too many people are living in the shadows unable to join our workforce, gain an education, and contribute to the economy they live in while we face real worker shortages and slow economic growth. For example, according to the nonpartisan advocacy group Change the Equation, from 2009 to 2011 1.4 STEM jobs were posted online in New Jersey for every one unemployed STEM worker in the state.

New Jersey cannot afford to wait to fix our immigration system. With last fall’s passage of major capital investments for our state’s colleges and universities, New Jersey demonstrated what can happen when businesses, labor, higher education, and political leaders of all stripes work together to keep our state competitive for the future. We ask you to work together to develop a comprehensive, bipartisan solution because all parts of our economy – from education to agriculture to housing to business – need it. Recent polls show that 62 percent of New Jersey voters support the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill, while 87 percent believe it is important we fix our immigration system this year. Now is the time for Washington leaders to act and ensure that the US can continue to compete on the global stage.


Peter P. Mercer, President, Ramapo College of New Jersey

Aaron Kotler, President, Beth Medrash Govoha

Susan A. Cole, President, Montclair State University

Dario A. Cortes, President, Berkeley College

Sue Henderson, President, New Jersey City University

Richard A. Levao, President, Bloomfield College

Joel S. Bloom, President, New Jersey Institute of Technology

Nancy H. Blattner, President, Caldwell University

R. Barbara Gitenstein, President, The College of New Jersey

Herman Saatkamp, President, The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey

Helen J. Streubert, President, College of Saint Elizabeth

Mordechai Rozanski, President, Rider University

Vivian A. Bull, Interim President, Drew University

Ali Houshmand, President, Rowan University

Gale E. Gibson, Interim President, Essex County College

Robert L. Barchi, President, Rutgers University, The State University of New Jersey

Sheldon Drucker, President, Fairleigh Dickinson University

Eugene J. Cornacchia, President, Saint Peter’s University

Anne M. Prisco, President, Felician College

Gabriel G. Esteban, President, Seton Hall University

Rosemary E. Jeffries, President, Georgian Court University

Kathleen Waldron, President, William Paterson University

Dawood Farahi, President, Kean University

Categories: Uncategorized

President's Post #54: A Ramapo Trifecta: Intellectual Stimulation, Personal Achievement, and Ramapo Pride

Dear Students, Faculty, Staff, and Friends:

Welcome to a new academic year!

It was my honor to congratulate the graduates of the Class of 2013 in May and it is indeed my pleasure to now welcome to campus the Class of 2017. I do hope that the summer months in-between this changing of the guard were fulfilling for each of you. Further, it is my hope that you join me in coming to campus this fall with a joie de vivre that will infuse your classrooms, offices, meetings, and residence halls with three very important things: intellectual stimulation, personal achievement, and Ramapo pride.

Intellectual Stimulation
In Passion & Purpose: Stories from the Best and Brightest Young Business Leaders, John Coleman writes thatyoung leaders are embracing new ways of learning. After all, they’re preparing themselves for jobs that probably haven’t been invented yet. Perhaps that’s why survey respondents cited intellectual challenge as the most important reason for choosing a job-significantly more important than compensation or prestige.”

Students, while landing a job may not be at the forefront of your ambitions at this moment, every interaction, conflict, lesson, and service that you experience at Ramapo is preparing you to succeed personally, academically, and professionally. Faculty and staff, we must remember that even our simplest actions and most routine words are impactful. We are all a part of an undergraduate experience that, at every turn, is designed to foster our students’ knowledge acquisition and self-discovery.

Personal Achievement
Students, many of you, I trust, are figuring out how you will be involved on campus. While acknowledging that the opportunities for involvement may seem endless (clubs, organizations, honor societies, athletics, employment, service, study abroad, etc..), there is no time like the present to jump right in and begin making your mark on Ramapo. It is the successes that you achieve both inside and outside of the classroom, together, that will make your experience special.

The faculty and staff rely on the students to shape the institutional culture. Indeed, we take cues from you about what we should be improving, initiating, and celebrating. Understand that if your voice is not heard outside of your social circle, you are cheating both yourself and the College– and cheating is not tolerated.

Ramapo Pride
What does it mean to be a Roadrunner? Students, what being a Roadrunner means to you may differ from what it means to your peers, your advisors, or your faculty. Nevertheless, I can assure you that, as Roadrunners, we all share a common truth: We are proud to be members of Ramapo College of New Jersey. For me, as the proud President of this college, being a Roadrunner means celebrating our smallest victories and sharing in our greatest defeats. It means being thoughtful yet decisive, strategic yet compassionate. Most of all, though, it means ceaselessly advocating for what is best for our College.

As Roadrunners, we are also swift in action and thought, and, as a result, sometimes our old memories are too quickly eclipsed by new ones. So, I would like to know, at this stage in your collegiate experience, what does being a Roadrunner mean to you? Email me at

I look forward to hearing from you and to sharing the year ahead with you.

Peter P. Mercer, President

Categories: Uncategorized