R. Barbara Gitenstein, president of the College, addressed budget issues during her State of the College update on Tuesday March 2. She discussed how the College plans to responding to the challenges presented by the forthcoming $2 million reduction in state aid to the College.
Before an audience of students, faculty and community members, Gitenstein spoke of the measures the College is considering to help “maintain (its) reputation as a well run, financially stable institution” in the wake of the budget cuts.
Gitenstein mentioned instating certain graduate programs, delving into budget reserves and cutting or consolidating programs for the next fiscal year as possibilities.
She also mentioned that layoffs and tuition increases are likely, though the College will go to great lengths to avoid them.
“We will need to prepare ourselves to make some difficult decisions,” Gitenstein said, “difficult decisions that will be disappointing and painful but are necessary for us to preserve our future and assure our control of our destiny.”
She assured students that she would do all in her power to ensure they do not feel the brunt of the cuts.
“While we will likely have to increase tuition and fees, we simply cannot balance the budget on the backs of our students and their families. They also are struggling in this economy,” she said.
Gitenstein also expressed her commitment to maintaining jobs.
“As I have shown in the past, I will do everything in my power to preserve jobs and pay,”she said. “I much prefer budget management by holding positions open, canceling searches and reorganizing services and offices … I will exhaust these kinds of possibilities before other actions are taken, but, unlike in the past, I believe that such possibilities will be exhausted this year before we finish our budget planning.”
Beyond the drop in state funding, Gitenstein mentioned another drop that has hurt the College financially — the drop in temperature this winter and the mountains of snow that accompanied it.
“There will likely be an increase in the cost for fuel and utilities, a huge increase in planned expenditure for snow removal, and a likely increase in the cost for emergency projects caused by damage to the physical plant,” she said.
Despite the large shadow state budget cuts cast over the speech, Gitenstein did her best to offset the gloom with reflections on the College’s recent successes.
“We have seen the support for New Jersey state colleges drop precipitously over the past decade. During that time at (the College), we have saved a great deal by reorganizing our staff positions, but not made any layoffs. We have directed more institutional resources for underprivileged students. We have … expanded our energy savings programs. At the same time we have made expenditure cuts, we have approached the reserves in a practical and responsible fashion,” she said.
She also made note of the College’s recent accolades – including a nod from Barron’s naming the College as one of the country’s 75 most competitive institutions of higher education.
“Despite all the gloomy news, particularly the lack of financial support from the state, (the College) continues to do extraordinary things,” Gitenstein said.
She ended on a note of measured optimism for how the College will deal with the issues the looming fiscal year presents.
“I do not want to minimize how demoralizing this situation is for all of us,” she said, “but I do want to underline my confidence in our ability to work together to provide an institutional solution in these trying times.”