Higher-education cuts draw criticism from state colleges association

TRENTON – The CEO of the state Association of State Colleges and Universities expressed disappointment today with the higher-education spending cuts and shifts in the fiscal year 2012 budget signed Thursday.

“This spending plan, without a doubt, is another setback for college opportunity and affordability,” Darryl G. Greer said in a release.

Among the cuts that Greer cited as problematic: A rollback to current funding levels of the Tuition Aid Grant that helps students in need. There had been a proposed increase of over $40 million.

According to Association spokesman Paul Shelly, the governor originally proposed a $25.2 million increase from the fiscal year 2011 level of $294.3 million for the TAG program, and then the Legislature proposed an additional $20 million increase.

In the final budget signed this week, the TAG level stayed at $294.3 million, he said.

There are two other budget provisions that concern the Association because they shift funding responsibility.

One involves the STARS II scholarship program for students transferring from county colleges to state colleges. The other involves the costs of fringe benefits for approximately 400 state-funded positions that Shelly said traditionally had been funded directly by the state.

In each case, according to Shelly, the Association is concerned because it will have to directly shoulder those costs: subsidizing the scholarships and the fringe benefits.

The Association represents nine state colleges and universities that serve approximately 105,000 students.

Higher-education cuts draw criticism from state colleges association