Gitenstein talks about state budget

College President R. Barbara Gitenstein expressed some concerns but focused on the positives when addressing the governor’s budget proposal at the Feb. 27 meeting of the Board of Trustees.

According to Gitenstein, Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s proposal, which includes a $49 million increase in funding to higher education and a $1.6 million rise in the College’s base appropriation, is encouraging but is still far from what is required to support the state’s colleges and universities.

“Higher education has gone without necessary and reliable support for more than a decade, and our colleges and universities will undoubtedly diminish in quality if they do not receive consistent and predictable funding going forward,” she said.

There was also some non-budget related activity at the meeting, including announcements about a new major and the future of dining services at the College.

While Gitenstein applauded the funding increases allotted for the College and need-based financial aid programs, she said she is worried that the additional support to higher education will still not be enough to cover costs from labor contracts and other mandatory expenditures.

These mandatory costs hurt the College last year, when it had to pay for a roughly 8 percent rise in salaries with no additional money from the state.

Gitenstein also said she was disappointed by the absence of the Outstanding Scholar Recruitment Program.

She said the College community should be active in appealing to the State Legislature and governor’s office for financial support.

“In the next year, we must focus a great deal of attention on articulating in crisp and forceful detail just how successful our college has been in realizing its mission and serving the citizens of the state of New Jersey,” Gitenstein said.

According to Gitenstein, the number of applications is ahead of last year’s pace by 10 percent.

She said next year’s incoming class has a strong academic profile and a large presence of under-represented groups. Out-of-state applications have risen by 35 percent, despite the 15 percent rise in out-of-state tuition.

During committee reports, the board voted to create a major in civil engineering, effective for the Class of 2007. It had previously been a concentration within the School of Engineering.

In the report of the TCNJ Foundation, board member Robert Kaye said alumni donations are 11 percent ahead of last year’s pace. The Foundation has collected $7.2 million this academic year, with a goal of $7.8 million by June 30. This figure includes the $5 million donated by the Loser family in the fall.

Gitenstein introduced Jack Kirnan, the recently hired interim dean of the School of Business. He comes to the College from Rutgers University and has experience at several major financial firms on Wall Street.

Gitenstein also announced that of the 14 tenure-track searches for professors, six people have already been hired, all of whom are women.

Board chair Stacy Holland praised the campus community for its determination in overcoming the obstacles of last year’s state budget.

“Last year’s budget process was what it was,” she said. “This community has rallied in a way that’s exemplary.”

Holland also praised Gitenstein’s performance.

“We are extremely proud, and we very much endorse, the service Dr. Gitenstein provides to this institution,” she said.

Christopher Gibson, board secretary, said major construction projects are progressing well in his report of the Building and Grounds Committee. The committee has reviewed a plan for future construction on an art and interactive multimedia building.

The board’s next meeting, scheduled for April 24, will feature the annual tuition and budget hearing. The board hopes to have a clear enough picture of the state budget to be able to set tuition for next year. Last year, tuition was not set until mid-July.

Gitenstein expressed excitement about the College’s future, but there is one thing she said she especially looks forward to this spring: the planting of grass where the Pennington Road Apartments used to be.