TRENTON – Perhaps heeding President Obama’s warning about states having to do more, the 2013 budget proposed by the Christie Administration calls for more than $80 million more in additional funding for the state’s 12 public colleges and universities.
Throughout much of last year, heads of the state’s public universities had called for greater state investment, mostly to help them upgrade or build new infrastructure. They suggested having a bond referendum in the general election to be approved by the voters.
While it’s not clear if that’s going to happen, the universities were pleased to see more funding come their way for school operations.
Rutgers University, the state’s largest university, saw the largest increase in actual dollars, with the budget proposing for fiscal year 2013 some $482.5 million, up from $456.3 million in 2012, or 5.74 percent.
Rutgers University President Richard McCormick was grateful for the proposed fund increase.
“The increases in student aid contained in Gov. Christie’s budget proposal are among the highest increases in the budget and are an indication of the governor’s commitment to keeping college affordable for New Jersey’s students,” McCormick said in a statement. “At a time when the state budget and family budgets are stretched, the increases in Tuition Assistance Grants and Educational Opportunity Funds will be a welcome relief to students and parents across the state.”
As a percentage, Rowan University in Glassboro would see the biggest increase in the proposed budget, from $79.8 million to $90 million, a 12.8 percent increase.
Joe Cardona, a university spokesman, said after nine years of either flat or decreased state funding, the proposed increase is welcome news.
“We’re excited about the possibility of extra funds,” he said. “We think it’s wonderful.”
While he said it’s too early to say where the money will go, Cardona said the school’s goals will be to keep tuition increases below the rate of inflation and address deferred maintenance.
Both schools are part of a somewhat controversial plan, where Rutgers University’s Camden campus would be absorbed by Rowan, the largest public university in South Jersey.
However, Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff on Tuesday said that issue had nothing to do with the increased funding for Rowan.
The issue of college affordability has been hovering in the national zenith for some time now. President Obama, in his State of the Union address, called on universities to do a better job controlling tuition hikes and the states to do a better job. He threatened to, among other things, withhold federal funding if they don’t do a better job at controlling costs.
Just about all the major four-year public colleges and universities would benefit under the budget, including New Jersey City University ($52.8 million, up 7 percent), Kean University ($63.4 million, up 6.7 percent), William Patterson University ($66 million, up 6.6 percent), College of New Jersey ($58.1 million, up 6.8 percent), Ramapo College of New Jersey, and Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, UMDNJ ($364 million proposed, up 3.8 percent), NJIT (70 million, up 5.7 percent).
Thomas Edison State College, largely attended by working adults, would receive $9.3 million, or 9.8 percent higher than what it was awarded in fiscal year 2012.
In addition to more money for each individual public institution, the Fiscal Year 2013 budget also calls for $28 million more in funding for various financial aid programs, such as the Tuition Aid Grants ($325 million, up 10.5 percent).
However, one scholarship program, NJSTARS I and II, did see a funding cut of more than 15 percent, from $16.4 million to $13.8 million.