Plateau in state funding causes tuition hikes

The Board of Trustees met on Tuesday, April 16 for its annual tuition hearing.

Board of Trustees Chair Christopher Gibson began the meeting with a moment of silence for missing College student Paige Aiello and the victims of the Boston Marathon tragedy.

“It must be just absolutely devastating for her family,” Gibson said. “We want all to know the board sympathizes, the board is concerned, the board is following this as closely as it can, and the board is keeping Paige and her family in our prayers.”

The status of the Colleges alumni in the race were also addressed.

“We know for a fact that two students were running and about 12 of our alums were running (in the marathon),” said R. Barbara Gitenstein, president of the College. “They are all well. They are all safe.”

In the tuition hearing, Gitenstein introduced Gov. Chris Christie’s proposal regarding state educational support. Christie proposed operating support to be held flat for all public universities, with a 1.6 percent increase in fringe benefits. He also proposed an increase in the Tuition Aid Grant program, while the Educational Opportunity Fund will remain flat at $38.822 million. The New Jersey Student Tuition Assistance Reward program will decrease by 23 percent, and the urban scholarship program proposed by Christie last year will remain flat at $1 million.

Treasurer Lloyd Ricketts introduced a new concept that the College will implement in which surplus revenue from other fund groups, such as auxiliary enterprises and summer programs, will go back into the main reserve, balancing the operating budget. The College is also generating revenue through the winter term and programs such as blended-learning courses and the freshman provisional cohort.

The plateau in state appropriations accounts for an increase in tuition for students. State support per full-time student has dropped from $8,792 in 2009 to $8,396 this year.

Although tuition is increasing every year, the annual rate at which it is increasing is decreasing. From 2010 to 2011, there was a four percent increase in tuition; this year, it was just 3.3 percent. For every one percent increase in in-state student charges, $147 is added to the college-operating budget.

The price of student health insurance is also expected to increase in the next year. Although the College is working to moderate these costs, costs may rise up to $1,000 from the $324 it was this year. Revenue from health insurance goes directly to the insurance company, according to Ricketts.

Despite a rise in tuition costs, Ricketts ensures that the money is going to good use. Operating budget key performance indicators state that at least two-thirds of tuition revenues must go toward direct student support. In addition, at least 10 percent of tuition revenue must go toward scholarships and tuition waivers. Ricketts stated that this year, about three-quarters of the budget will go to direct student support, and the College is giving out more in scholarships than state and federal contributions combined.

“We’ll keep talking on campus as to how best to come up with a strategically balanced budget and moderate whatever tuition and fee increase will be recommended,” Ricketts said.