By Sara Torres
Governor Christie’s proposed budget plan for the 2016 fiscal year slashes funding to public four-year colleges, mainly due to the rising cost of employee benefits. The budget summary, released in February, reveals an estimated dip in operational funding to the College, specifically, by over $2 million.
“The state provides support to public colleges in two primary ways: direct operating aid and by paying the cost of employee fringe benefits,” said David Muha, vice president for Marketing, Communications and Brand Management.
According to the proposed budget, funding for fiscal year 2016 would maintain the present level of funding provided in the current fiscal year. However, the cost of fringe benefits, such as healthcare and pensions, will increase. This means funding will be taken out of the allotment for direct operating aid to make up for fringe employee benefits.
“Under the governor’s proposed budget, TCNJ will receive $2.429 million less in institutional operating aid from the state next year,” Muha said. “That represents an 8.29 percent cut to our operating budget.”
The budget proposal has sparked abundant controversy. Spokesman for the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities Paul R. Shelly was quoted in an article on Philly.com saying, “We’re very concerned, because the reduction in this budget proposal would be a significant share of our institutions’ direct appropriations, and it would continue a pattern of declining state funding for public higher education.”
The college administration is currently considering options to address this slash in state funding, according to Muha. In the coming weeks, the president, provost, treasurer and vice president of Human Resources will meet with the Student Government, the Faculty Senate, the Staff Senate and campus unions to discuss the proposed budget and gather input.
“I can’t speculate on what the ultimate solution will involve,” Muha said.
Senior elementary education and history double major Deanna DeCongelio said the budget proposal is reminiscent of the governor’s usual pattern of behavior toward education.
Being in the teaching field has exposed DeCongelio to similar situations in which she has witnessed many teachers constantly being denied tenure due to changing qualifications.
“Christie hasn’t been a fan of giving teachers the salary or the tenure that they deserve,” she said. “I think this is a real step back from where we should be going in the educational field.”
When she leaves the College behind, it may not be the same place she entered if the budget passes.
“That’s such a shame, especially for our professors who do so much for us and want to make us the best that we can be,” she said. “If they don’t have the resources for higher education, what’s the purpose of college?”
It is possible the proposal may undergo changes in the legislative process. The governor’s proposed budget must still be enacted by the legislature and signed by Christie by Tuesday, June 30. The Senate and Assembly have higher education budget hearings set for late April.