Statement on State Comptroller's Report on Student Fees
It is important to focus on the big picture of college affordability in New Jersey to understand the level of tuition and fees charged by New Jersey’s state colleges and universities. The state has been cutting appropriations to the senior public colleges and universities for over a decade. Between FY2006 and FY2016, the state decreased operating funding to the eight state colleges and universities by $76.2 million, over 29 percent (see first chart below).
Between FY2010 and FY2015, New Jersey had the 10th-largest decrease in the U.S. in higher education appropriations per student, according to the most recent State Higher Education Finance report, released by the State Higher Education Executive Officers association (SHEEO) on April 27 (see second chart below). The report can be found here: http://www.sheeo.org/sites/default/files/SHEEO_SHEF_FY2015.pdf
Over the 25-year period between FY1990 and FY2015, appropriations per student at New Jersey’s public colleges and universities, adjusted for inflation, decreased 40 percent, from $11,085 to $6,697. During this same period, full-time equivalent enrollment increased 60 percent, from 169,482 students to 270,453 students (see chart below from http://www.sheeo.org/sites/default/files/State_by_State_Wave_Charts_FY15_0.xlsx).
In addition to the loss of operating funds, the state colleges and universities had to rely significantly on bond funds backed solely by the institutions until the Building Our Future Bond Act was passed in 2012. Many student fees are designated specifically to pay the debt service on bonds issued by the institutions. The state provided no capital funding for higher education between FY2003 and FY2014, and New Jersey was one of only five states that provided no capital funding for higher education between FY2010 and FY2015 (National Association of State Budget Officers, State Expenditure Reports, 2010-2012 to 2013-2015, http://www.nasbo.org/publications-data/state-expenditure-report).
Despite decreases in appropriations and significant reliance on their own bonding capacity, the leaders of New Jersey’s state colleges and universities have been prudent fiscal managers and have controlled costs for their students. Between FY2011 and FY2016, New Jersey’s public four-year institutions had the fourth-lowest percentage increase in in-state tuition and required fees in the nation, at four percent (http://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/2015-16-state-tuition-and-fees-public-four-year-institutions-state-and-five-year-percentage).
The operation of the state colleges and universities, particularly regarding budgeting and audits, is transparent and open to the public. As the State Comptroller’s report itself states several times, New Jersey law (C.18A:3B-6.c.) requires each board of trustees of the public colleges and universities to conduct a public hearing before adopting a tuition or fee schedule or an overall institutional budget, providing members of the college community who wish to testify with an opportunity to be heard. An additional law (C.18A:3B-48) requires each public college and university board of trustees to have an audit committee, which must assist the board in ensuring and safeguarding the integrity of the institution’s financial statements, overseeing and evaluating the performance of outside auditors retained by the institution, and overseeing and evaluating the performance of the institution’s internal audit function.
We welcome the opportunity to discuss with policymakers how to strengthen the partnership between our institutions and the state to keep a college education affordable to New Jersey’s students.
|Total State Appropriations to the State Colleges and Universities|
FY 2006-FY 2016
|Institution||FY 2006||FY 2016||$ Cut||% Cut|