Coleman questions why higher ed funds will move into general fund

TRENTON – Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, (D-15), of Trenton, questioned why some $12 million in higher education funds from the current fiscal year will lapse in fiscal year 2013 into the general fund.

The funds are from such programs as the Education Opportunity Fund and Tuition Aid Grant, programs that provide tuition assistance to students from economically disadvantaged families to attend college.

Gov. Chris Christie has proposed increasing TAG for fiscal year 2013 by $36.7 million.

Higher education officials said TAGs could cover as much as 80 percent of a student’s tuition and described the program as one of the most generous. Nearly 77,000 students have been helped with state assistance to pay for their college expenses.

But Coleman pointed out the value of the funds may not be as much as it used to be due to the rapid rate in which college costs have risen.

“I think New Jersey has failed miserably in funding higher education,”  she said.

She called for making “midterm adjustments” when determining how many students receive tuition assistance so that if there are any untapped funds that are available, the money could go toward more students who could use the help. At a time when students are incurring higher-than-ever debt due to college costs, it’s important that students are getting the help they need, she said.

But another Budget Committee member, Assemblyman Gary Chiusano, (D-24), of Augusta, said having money left over doesn’t necessarily mean students are being left out.  It could just mean, he said, that services are being provided at a smaller cost.

“I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing,” Chiusano said about the lapsed funds. He added that if there’s money saved, the state should return the money to the “taxpayers.”  

  Coleman questions why higher ed funds will move into general fund