10/17/2012 11:57 am ET Updated Dec 17, 2012

Building Our Future: Interview With a Cranky New Jersey Taxpayer


This article was written with Corina Hernandez, a Public Administration major at Kean University. The "college student" is fictional.

On Election Day, New Jersey voters will be asked:

Do you approve the "Building Our Future Bond Act?" This bond act authorizes the state to issue bonds in the aggregate principal of $750 million to provide matching grants to New Jersey's colleges and universities. Money from the grants will be used to build, equip and expand higher education facilities for the purpose of increasing academic capacity.

Cranky taxpayer
: Are you kidding me? New Jersey is already in debt. And you want me to say "Yes" to $750 million to help colleges? Fugetaboutit. What good is a college degree, anyway? I got my job after high school and am doing OK. Well, sort of.

College student: Hold up. That $750 million could help almost 50 colleges and universities. You want to talk about debt? How about an investment that could pay back in one year in increased GDP for the state and create 10,000 new jobs? And what good is a college degree? Don't get me started.

Cranky taxpayer: So. That sounds like a cheap sound bite crafted for election season. I'm sick of it.

College student: Fine. Here it goes. My family came from the Dominican Republic and I'm the first one to go to college. I have to work two jobs just to keep my head above water. I wouldn't be able to study at college if it weren't for the state's support. And get this, cranky taxpayer. A Georgetown University study reported that workers with a bachelor's degree earn 84 percent more during their lifetimes compared to those with a high school diploma. And more education means less unemployment. Unemployment rates are 12 percent for workers with less than a high school dipoma, 9 percent for those with a high school diploma, 7 percent for those with some college education, and 4 percent for those with a bachelor's degree or higher.

Cranky taxpayer: Yeah, sure. That may be true, but I don't want to have to pay for it. Pay for it yourself.

College student: I wish I could. But here's the deal. According to a Governor's Task Force on Higher Education, by 2018, New Jersey will be second only to Massachusetts with jobs that require a bachelor's degree. And most of these jobs will be in areas like healthcare, computer technology, business management and education. Then I can reach a level no one in my family has ever seen before, to support them, and inspire my children. I'll be making more than you, cranky taxpayer. Plus, we all know that no matter who our next president is, I'll be paying more taxes the more successful I am. And one more bonus -- I'll be more happy, and less cranky, than you.

Cranky taxpayer: Good luck with that.