Admins talk possible increase in tuition

College treasurer Barbara Wineberg apprised the Board of Trustees at its April 22 meeting of the College’s current financial state and what implications this state might have for College tuition.

According to Stacy Holland, chair of the Board of Trustees, the meeting was held as a preliminary discussion to determine a possible tuition increase in the upcoming academic year.

“Like in years past, we also do not know the state of our state budget allocation, so we are not able to directly talk to what the percentage increase will be,” Holland said. “However, what we wanted to do was actually come and present the methodology for how we go through this decision, where we anticipate we will fall without any firm decisions, but to also share with you the principles with which we make these budget processes.”

“We simply do not know what the support will be from the state, which is the basis on which we used to plan our budget,” College President R. Barbara Gitenstein said. “The reason for that is (Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s) budget, on which we used to base the first scenario, is so much in play at this point that it would be foolish for us to say what we don’t know.”

Gitenstein added that Corzine’s proposed budget is undergoing change.

“He has already identified a couple of areas that he’s probably going to either reduce or delete altogether,” she added, specifically mentioning Corzine’s toll-road privatization plan.

According to Wineberg, Corzine has proposed a 10 percent reduction of the College’s base budget, which equates to approximately $3.7 million. Corzine has also proposed an unfunded salary increase for unionized faculty members of about $1.5 million, in addition to an increase in nondiscretionary contract spending of about $700,000.

Wineberg also said Corzine’s budget places unfunded mandates on the College, including mandatory support for the Outstanding Scholarship Recruitment Program (OSRP), New Jersey STARS II and various state-mandated waivers.

“Right now, we’re projecting about $8.2 million in the shortfall,” Wineberg said.

According to Wineberg, the budget cuts currently faced by the College began in fiscal year 2002. Wineberg said that at that time, the state provided funding for 56 percent of the College’s budget. By fiscal year 2008, the figure had dropped to 37 percent. Wineberg said that during this time period, the College faced a $30 million shortfall in its budget.

“We cannot ignore this, as President Gitenstein indicated, because we have endured severe cuts to our appropriations, our budgets and that really plays a part in what we can do to go forward in the future,” Wineberg said.

Wineberg said the $30 million shortfall was caused both by cuts in appropriations and unfunded state mandates, including salary increases, OSRP and NJ STARS II. To combat the shortfall, Wineberg said, the College made permanent administrative reductions, instituted energy-saving programs, froze temporary expenditures – including information technology upgrades – held open faculty positions and reduced maintenance and renovation projects.

According to Wineberg, the College received a $2 million increase in state appropriations.

“We also recognized in fiscal year 2008 that we could not continue with our strategy of just cuts,” Wineberg said. “We had to start considering how we could invest in the mission-critical initiatives of the institution.”

She added that mission-critical initiatives include security investments, compliance investments and reinvestment in faculty positions.

“We’re going to continue with advocacy efforts,” Wineberg said, which included meeting with the staff and faculty senates, Student Government Association and campus unions.

After attending the state Senate’s budget meeting on April 21, Gitenstein said she thought the attitude toward New Jersey higher education was sympathetic.

“I did feel, in the conversation before the Senate Budget Committee, there was an acknowledgment that this disinvestment was happening,” Gitenstein said. “I will say that I found that a reassuring moment.”