College President R. Barbara Gitenstein, a member of the New Jersey President’s Council, recently voted to ask the state for a $208.6 million increase in higher education funding.
The Council, a 50-member board representing the state’s public and private colleges, unanimously approved the increase at the November meeting in New Brunswick. The extra funding would help keep tuitions affordable, provide more financial aid and support campus building projects.
According to Gitenstein, at the College the extra funding would help the College cover “well-deserved” salary increases for faculty and staff. These increases are negotiated through the governor’s office. In the College’s budget, salaries represent the greatest costs and the greatest growth in costs.
“Without additional state dollars to cover these increases, we must turn to increases in costs to students and their parents,” Gitenstein said.
In addition, Gitenstein said the College could expect to see staff and faculty increases in “targeted programs,” such as growing academic programs and facilities management. Increases in financial aid, both merit and need based, could also be expected.
According to the Council, an increased investment in higher education will in turn provide for an improvement in New Jersey’s economic development. Gitenstein said that with the higher investment, more students will pursue a higher education and will therefore earn more money. This increase in earnings will lead to more taxes being paid to the state.
“Higher education is also very much involved in supporting the work of small business
and providing intellectual capital for good government initiatives, enhancement of the cultural life of the community and scientific advances,” Gitenstein said.
Gitenstein realizes that the state is facing budget issues but feels that the council’s request is reasonable and legitimate. “We, as presidents of the colleges, recognize the very difficult situation of the state, but we believe that we are honor- bound to continue to advocate for higher education … for the good of our students,” she said.
This request for a budget increase comes at a time when the state is facing an estimated $4 billion budget gap, and the state treasurer has warned state departments about possible cuts. The Council may have to wait until the end of June, after the 2006 budgets are finalized, to find out if their request will be honored.
According to Barbara Wineberg, College Treasurer, state funding represents just over 40 percent of the College’s operating budget. The future goal is to increase the state’s share of funding to two-thirds by 2010.
“If the request from the President’s Council is approved, it would provide the initial step in a gradual shift to increase state support and decrease the student’s share,” Wineberg said.
A breakdown of the Council’s request gives $158.3 million more in operating aid, $14.3 million more in student financial aid and $36 million more for campus building projects.