A friend complained to me recently how so many of his peers went out of NJ for college, citing the excellence of schools like Rutgers, TCNJ, etc.
I said to him that many middle-to-high income college families want their kid to get the "college campus town experience" and that's an important priority. Many kids visit these towns, fall in love with them and enroll. Now these socioeconomic groups do not define what is a good college town. Or do they? Do many states, counties and municipalities invest in these towns to attract out-of-state and international students? Yes sir/ m'am.
The hard truth is that NJ can't compare to New England or Upstate New York's many quaint/ cool towns. PA has a good amount too.
Then the question on whether NJ is just "too small" came up . . and as a result suitcase schools are inevitable. But then we thought of Delaware (UD - Newark), Rhode Island (URI - Kingston), etc. we kind of stopped in our tracks.
The economy has slowed the flow out as many NJ students are choosing state colleges & universities (and community colleges) in bigger numbers and Christie is on record saying he wanted more NJ kids going to NJ higher ed schools
But when you look at our college towns, it's not too impressive when you've got options:
- Out of reach for many, Nassau St & Palmer Square are pretty much it. Has so many chain shopping stores that resemble say, Summit or Millburn.
- I actually like the momentum that's been happening here, but it couldn't hold a candle to Bloomington, In., State College or Ann Arbor.
- Pitman has a cool old theater and the area is trying, but Rowan's towns have a long way to go. That light rail project may help.
- Stockton is in the woods and there is no real town there. Students are better off living in Brigantine or Margate, scattered around.
West Long Branch
- Long Branch itself has seen some recent positives, but isn't really a college town.
- The disconnect between this town that has so much potential and the state's premiere college could not be greater. Really started a couple decades back with the change of the "Trenton State" name.
- Has Drew & FDU Florham. A cool single street with a train station, but not a cool town.
- Seton Hall's town also has one cool street, but this is still a bigger bedroom community for Manhattan workers.
- Double Meh
- Kean's college has some nice new condos/ apts. & an awesome coffee shop by the train station, but you can't walk anywhere. It's that bad.
- A good amounts of colleges here, but Newark has a long way to go. It will never be a "college town" but it could be a really awesome city.
- If you're an engineer, Stevens' campus is excellent and you're in Hoboken where many other workers are close to your age and likely in their 20s too. This town IMHO represents a great, attractive town for a NJ student to go to. But it's not a college town. I lived there for years and never even met a Stevens student. I did see a couple Stevens sweatshirts though.
- This is the most attractive place and one that I see as a natural winner to invest in. However, the college is toward the north part of town, far enough away from the downtown for their to be a big disconnect. A bike path could change that. I would love to see Montclair to become known as a cool college town, maybe on par with some New England schools. It already has the Wellmont Theatre
It's really sad. Recently I visited Willamsport, PA which (I found out has Lycoming College) and it was bigger and nicer than many of our college towns. It's like they combined Lambertville with Morristown, which was a pretty good result.
What do you think could be done?