By John Irvine
The College’s Board of Trustees held a meeting open to faculty, students and the public on Tuesday, April 28, to discuss a handful of issues; primarily tuition costs for the 2015-2016 school year.
The focal point of the meeting was a presentation, given by President R. Barbara Gitenstein and Vice President/Treasurer Lloyd Ricketts, which revolved around Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed budget. If that budget passes, the College’s base state appropriations will be reduced by approximately $2.4 million for the upcoming fiscal year, according to the president and treasurer.
With $2.4 million fewer to work with, but with grander plans than ever for the College, Gitenstein stressed to the Board of Trustees the continued importance of investing.
“We already came to closure about two years ago that we spend too much time worrying about cuts, and not enough time about where to invest,” Gitenstein said to the Board. “We have to think about how to invest as well as how to cut.”
Despite this very balanced approach toward the future of the College, under the governor’s proposed budget, some things must still be cut and prices must still be raised, particularly the cost of next year’s tuition.
As it stands, the exact increase in tuition costs has not been definitely decided, but one of two scenarios is likely to be chosen. Scenario A would entail a 2 percent tuition increase, while Scenario B would have tuition prices rise by 3 percent. For every percentage point that tuition increases, it will cost families an additional $156 per year.
To put this into perspective, over the past four years tuition costs have risen by 4.5 percent, 3.5 percent, 2.5 percent and last year by 2 percent. But with the state so heavily cutting the College’s appropriations, it will be difficult to maintain the 2 percent increase, according to Ricketts.
Remarkably, tuition increases have gone down over the past four years even though, over that same span, the state has provided fewer and fewer funds for each student. In 2011, the state provided $8,297 for the cost of each student, and in 2014 the state’s coverage had dropped to $7,691.
If that trend continues, tuition increases seem probable as well. If tuition increases by 2 percent, then a $4.46 million deficit would need to be overcome with funds from elsewhere. With a 3 percent tuition increase, that deficit drops to $3.5 million. There is also talk of another scenario in the works, besides options A and B, which would increase tuition by more than 3 percent. Not much more was said about how likely that scenario is, but Board of Trustees Secretary Robert Altman did not hesitate to voice his opinion about that other scenario.
“Increasing tuition by more than the three percent would not be a good idea,” Altman said.
And yet, in spite of all the budget cuts and talk of tuition increase, the College continues to invest. Many new faculty have been offered positions to meet the growing needs of the College. Even with the budget cuts, new faculty members are still being brought on board.
“Now we’ve got budget cuts from the state. Can we go back to these new faculty and take away their contracts? I don’t think so,” Gitenstein said to the Board. “That seems to fly in the face of our institutional integrity.”
In addition, $16.45 million has been budgeted for Fall 2015 scholarships, an amount higher than ever before.
The next Board meeting will be in July, by which the governor’s budget will have been decided and the Board can more definitely discuss these issues.