TRENTON – Not without debate, the Assembly Higher Education Committee this afternoon passed a bill prohibiting a four-year public or independent institution of higher education from increasing the tuition and fees of a resident undergraduate student for nine continuous semesters following the student’s initial enrollment in the institution.
“Hopefully what we’re going to say, with this bill, is let’s put families first,” said Assemblyman Joe Cryan (D-20), Union Twp., the bill’s prime sponsor.
The bill applies to New Jersey residents.
“Here’s a tool that makes us competitive, to provide leverage for this state,” argued the veteran lawmaker.
The bill further provides that when the governing board of the institution adopts the tuition and fees for the upcoming academic year, the board will prepare a nonbinding document that discloses the governing board’s estimate of the tuition and fees for the next four cohorts of students who will initially enroll in the institution in each of the four academic years following the upcoming academic year.
Rutgers’ state debt right now is $2.1 billion.
Cryan noted the 57% four-year graduation rate at Rudgets New Brunswick, but fretted the 32% rates at Rutgers Camden and Rutgers Newark.
“You’ve got to get these students in and out and incentivize these students,” the assemblyman said.
One lawmaker on the committee noted that as much as financial relief to students, New Jersey needs to give young people more employment opportunities once they graduate.
“We graduate highly competiive students who are able to go to other states. At the same time we’re trying to make it easier for our kids, we need to make it easier for our kids [who go out of state to college] to come back to this state,” said Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-27). “Just a comment.”
Mike Klein, executive director of the New Jersey Association of Colleges and Universities, spoke out in opposition to Cryan’s bill.
“Our institutions have had their state appropriations cut 25%,” he said. “That helps explain why state tuition is where it is.”
“Bond revenue? Really? The next generation should pay for this? Frankly, I find that to be the tail wagging the dog,” the assemblyman said. “It’s time we put the focus where it should be.”
Assemblywoman Celeste Riley (D-3) supported Cryan. “I don’t understand why we can’t put the consumer first,” she said.
The bill was one of four higher education bills that passed out of committee this afternoon.