PRELIMINARY ANALYSIS OF PROPOSED FY 2015 BUDGET FOR HIGHER EDUCATION
The FY 2015 higher education budget includes a total of $2.3 billion for higher education, an increase of about $160.6 million, about 8 percent, above last year.
The largest increases will cover debt service on the "Building Our Future" bonds and related bond programs and will provide additional fringe benefit support for more than 22,000 faculty and staff for New Jersey's senior public institutions.
The budget also includes an increase of $14 million for tuition assistance grants. This comes on top of the $47 million increase in TAG grants that we have provided over the past two years to expand resources for students in need who want to attend college.
The governor highlighted within his speech that the three major categories of funding in the budget are debt service, health benefits, and pension costs. These three categories account for 94% of year-to-year growth in New Jersey's budget, as indicated in chart below.
Summary of the FY2015 Budget for Higher Education as Enacted
state appropriations for each of the senior public colleges and
universities are the same as last year.
- The budget increases funding for fringe benefits.
- Increase of $50.792 million in pensions for higher education (p. B-4)
- Increase of $36.893 million for "Active and Retiree Employee Health Benefits - Higher Education" (p. B-4)
- Total fringe benefit costs for employees at the senior public institutions of higher education is $1.018 billion, an increase of $62.6 million, or 6.5% over FY2014
- Because of variations in the number of employees at each institution, the proposed fringe-benefit increases at each of the institutions range from 3.3% to 5.6%
- While the budget includes a $160.6 million increase in higher education spending, a large share would to go University Hospital, which would receive an increase of $29.8 million, or 18.6% of the reported increase in the higher education budget.
Building Our Future Bonds
- The budget appropriates $894,000 for debt service for the Building Our Future Bonds, but the budget does not indicate the amount of bonds to be sold in FY2015.
New Jersey Educational Facilities Authority Bonds
- Debt service for NJEFA's higher education bond programs is recommended at $109.1 million, an increase of $58.7 million from FY2014.
- Higher Education Capital Improvement Program debt service: $60.723 million
- Equipment Leasing Fund debt service: $16.574 million
- Higher Education Facilities Trust Fund debt service: $21.822 million
- Higher Education Technology Infrastructure Fund debt service: $3.736 million
Financial Aid Programs
- Funding for the Tuition Aid Grant (TAG) program is increased by $14 million to support a 2% across-the-board increase in award amounts for TAG recipients.
The Education Opportunity Fund (EOF) program received an increase of
$1.565 million which was added by the legislature and left intact by
- The NJSTARS program is slated to continue "unaltered," according to the Budget Summary, but the program is projected to have a decrease in costs of $2.094 million (19.7%), presumably from decreased population.
- $700,000 for the Governor's Urban Scholarship Program, which provides grants to high-achieving students from economically disadvantaged areas of the state who attend an institution of higher education in New Jersey. This amount is $300,000 lower than in FY2014.
Continuing a policy from the past several years, the budget includes language that would require the institutions to cover the cost of the National Guard tuition-waiver program out of their appropriations, despite language in the law stating, "The State shall reimburse a public institution of higher education for the tuition cost of each National Guard member who enrolls in the institution pursuant to the provisions of this section to the extent that the tuition cost is not paid through tuition benefits available to the member through the United States Department of Veterans Affairs under the 'Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008'" (NJSA 18:A:62-24.b).
- The county colleges receive an increase of $1.46 million (0.8%) in direct operating support and net fringe benefits.
- The debt service for the Chapter 12 bond program for the county colleges is increased by $4.45 million (12.5%).
Independent Colleges and Universities
- $1 million
is again appropriated under the Independent College and University Assistance Act (NJSA 18A:-72B-15 et seq.), which authorizes financial assistance to the 14 New Jersey independent colleges and universities.
Other Higher Education Appropriations
- The number of state-funded positions at Rowan University was increased to 1,532 (from 1,449) by the legislature and left intact by the governor.
- Clinical Legal Programs for the Poor at Seton Hall University, $200,000 (same as FY2014).
- Research under contract with the Institute of Medical Research, Camden (Coriell Institute), $1.037 million (same as FY2014).