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NJ Caps Tuition Increases

April 7, 2010
N.J. Gov. Christie proposes 4 percent tuition-increase cap for state colleges
Repost from NorthJersey.Com
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Last updated: Thursday April 8, 2010, 7:58 AM

BY PATRICIA ALEX
The Record
STAFF WRITER

Governor Christie is proposing a 4 percent cap on increases in tuition and fees for the state’s public colleges and universities, and is considering reopening union contracts to try to get salary concessions at the schools, his spokesman said Wednesday.

“It’s definitely something worth our attention,” said Michael Drewniak, the spokesman. “It’s not the most desirable thing, but we are short on choices.”

The moves come even as school leaders are considering a host of cuts to staff and programs to make up for a $173 million cut to higher education in the Governor’s proposed budget. And they are chafing at the idea of a cap, saying it undermines school autonomy and could affect the ability to borrow money for capital improvements.

But Drewniak said the cap – included in a budget summary posted online this week – is part of the “shared sacrifice” needed to close the hole in the state budget.

“Four percent might be difficult to swallow, but everybody needs a break – including parents paying tuition,” Drewniak said.

Four-year public colleges that exceed the cap would lose even more state aid under the Christie proposal.

Tuition and fees at the state’s four year colleges and universities averages about $11,000, one of the highest public rates in the nation. The costs have risen as that state’s share of support for higher education has shrunk in the last decade.

Unionized employees at the schools deferred a 3.5 percent increase last year when former Governor Corzine reopened their contracts, said Nicholas Yovnello, statewide president of the AFT Council of New Jersey State College Locals.

His membership, which numbers 8,500, has also participated in unpaid furloughs and begun contributing more to medical benefits, he said. They are unlikely to go for another pay freeze.

“We’ve already given several times,” said Yovnello, a librarian at Rowan University. “How many times do you want to go back to the well?”

At William Paterson University, President Arnold Speert said he is considering closing the campus for two weeks during the next school year to absorb the cuts. Workers would not be paid during the closure.

An administration memo to students and staff at Kean University warns that across-the-board salary freezes may be the only way to close the gap left by a decrease of nearly $10 million in state aid.

Speert said he was blindsided by the tuition cap.

“I was shocked. There was no inkling of it – no possibility that the governor’s budget included such wording,” said Speert.

Speert and other college leaders said a cap could affect bond ratings – since it limits schools’ revenue – and therefore limit the ability to borrow. In a statement, Rutgers said borrowing may be needed to “offset shortfalls in state support and fund needed investments in academic programs.”

Montclair State University President Susan Cole said she opposed the state cap “especially in an environment where institutions are underfunded year after year.”

State support for higher education in New Jersey has declined for seven of the past ten years, said Darryl Greer, executive director of the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities.

The governor, in a meeting with college presidents shortly after his election, said that higher education would be a priority in his administration but he warned that this budget year could be tough.

The cut this year is just over 15 percent of the state’s contribution to the schools, it also includes decreases in student aid and the elimination of a program that provided a full ride at community college for the states best high school students.

“This budget doesn’t show that higher education is a priority,” said Greer. “This is not just another thing we can muddle through.”

E-mail: alex@northjersey.com

Governor Christie is proposing a 4 percent cap on increases in tuition and fees for the state’s public colleges and universities, and is considering reopening union contracts to try to get salary concessions at the schools, his spokesman said Wednesday.

Tuition and fees at the state’s four year colleges and universities  averages about $11,000, one of the highest public rates in the nation.

FILE PHOTO

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Tuition and fees at the state’s four year colleges and universities averages about $11,000, one of the highest public rates in the nation.

“It’s definitely something worth our attention,” said Michael Drewniak, the spokesman. “It’s not the most desirable thing, but we are short on choices.”

The moves come even as school leaders are considering a host of cuts to staff and programs to make up for a $173 million cut to higher education in the Governor’s proposed budget. And they are chafing at the idea of a cap, saying it undermines school autonomy and could affect the ability to borrow money for capital improvements.

By the numbers

$173 million: decrease in state aid to higher education
7: number of years in past decade when state aid has been cut
34: NJ ranking on public spending for higher education per capita
4%: proposed cap on tuition and fees at the 12 senior public college
$11,000: average tuition and fees
2: NJ ranking for most expensive public college tuition

But Drewniak said the cap – included in a budget summary posted online this week – is part of the “shared sacrifice” needed to close the hole in the state budget.

“Four percent might be difficult to swallow, but everybody needs a break – including parents paying tuition,” Drewniak said.

Four-year public colleges that exceed the cap would lose even more state aid under the Christie proposal.

Tuition and fees at the state’s four year colleges and universities averages about $11,000, one of the highest public rates in the nation. The costs have risen as that state’s share of support for higher education has shrunk in the last decade.

Unionized employees at the schools deferred a 3.5 percent increase last year when former Governor Corzine reopened their contracts, said Nicholas Yovnello, statewide president of the AFT Council of New Jersey State College Locals.

His membership, which numbers 8,500, has also participated in unpaid furloughs and begun contributing more to medical benefits, he said. They are unlikely to go for another pay freeze.

“We’ve already given several times,” said Yovnello, a librarian at Rowan University. “How many times do you want to go back to the well?”

At William Paterson University, President Arnold Speert said he is considering closing the campus for two weeks during the next school year to absorb the cuts. Workers would not be paid during the closure.

An administration memo to students and staff at Kean University warns that across-the-board salary freezes may be the only way to close the gap left by a decrease of nearly $10 million in state aid.

Speert said he was blindsided by the tuition cap.

“I was shocked. There was no inkling of it – no possibility that the governor’s budget included such wording,” said Speert.

Speert and other college leaders said a cap could affect bond ratings – since it limits schools’ revenue – and therefore limit the ability to borrow. In a statement, Rutgers said borrowing may be needed to “offset shortfalls in state support and fund needed investments in academic programs.”

Montclair State University President Susan Cole said she opposed the state cap “especially in an environment where institutions are underfunded year after year.”

State support for higher education in New Jersey has declined for seven of the past ten years, said Darryl Greer, executive director of the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities.

The governor, in a meeting with college presidents shortly after his election, said that higher education would be a priority in his administration but he warned that this budget year could be tough.

The cut this year is just over 15 percent of the state’s contribution to the schools, it also includes decreases in student aid and the elimination of a program that provided a full ride at community college for the states best high school students.

“This budget doesn’t show that higher education is a priority,” said Greer. “This is not just another thing we can muddle through.”

E-mail: alex@northjersey.com

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