Gov. Phil Murphy on April 5 visited Rutgers University’s Newark campus for a roundtable discussion about his New Jersey College Promise initiative and to highlight higher education investments in his fiscal year 2024 budget.

“One of our top priorities from day one of our administration, which is now in its sixth year, has been making a college education more affordable and more accessible to every student who’s willing to roll up their sleeves and work hard,” Murphy said from the Paul Robeson Campus Center. “Investments in higher education are about both the quality and about equity — equal access for all, while stepping up the programs for those … especially from historically underserved communities.”

He added, “In the upcoming academic year, based on our best guesses, we anticipate more than 14,000 students attending community college will be on one of these opportunity grants, and more than 12,000 students attending a four-year school will be on one of the Garden State Guarantees.”

Roundtable participants included retiring Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, who was asked by Murphy about unfinished business in higher education and how far New Jersey has come with regard to college affordability and accessibility.

“In the time that I have been in Trenton, which will soon be 16 years,” Jasey responded, “we have made tremendous strides — really tremendous strides. I actually think that we should have a commissioner of higher education because a commissioner does have more power. … It seems to me that’s the direction we need to go in.”

As the event was winding down, Murphy addressed AFTNJ President Donna M. Chiera, who was in attendance: “Donna, we are America’s organized labor state.” Given the timing and the location, it was presumably his way of acknowledging that the contract negotiations between Rutgers University’s administration and their unions may be reaching a breaking point.

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