It would be interesting to see what state/countries become net importers or exporters of college students. Massachusetts has a huge number of colleges and universities of all types and a lot of people go there from out of state. NJ is the opposite. We export a lot of our students because we’re remarkably short on more selective and/or private colleges and universities relative to our population. We’re also short on small liberal-arts schools. Don’t get me wrong-we have a lot of great schools, but if you’re looking for a school with a selectivity level between, say, Drew and Princeton, you’re out of luck. So if you’re looking at schools like Amherst or Carnegie Mellon or Williams or Wesleyan, you’re looking out of state. It’s no big deal to go to school in Pennsylvania or DC or Massachusetts, but if they were different countries, it wouldn’t be as easy. I expect a lot of students would still go to schools in other state/countries, but a greater percentage of students would probably opt to stay in their own country. NJ would end up having to build more colleges and universities and Massachusetts would end up with unused capacity.
I can imagine the New England states forming an association much like the European Union. It would make sense economically, and since New Englanders have a strong regional identity in addition to their state identity, I expect they would be amenable to that sort of arrangement (the Rhode Island issue notwithstanding).
I think New Jersey would be just fine. We’re on the coast and in close proximity to NY and Philadelphia and we have one of the wealthiest and best-educated populations. Perhaps more importantly, there are a huge number of businesses headquartered here, especially pharmaceutical and related consumer products firms such as Johnson and Johnson. We’d probably end up as the pharmaceutical capital of the world.