As state-supported institutions, New Jersey's state colleges and universities are able to offer students an education at a cost well below that of a private college or university. Tuition rates, fees and expenses are established by each college's board of trustees.
During the 2014-2015 academic year, full-time undergraduate students who were New Jersey residents paid from about $360 to $500 per credit hour for tuition and fees, depending upon their institution. Undergraduate tuition and fees for 2014-2015 range from $10,853 to $15,024 for full-time state resident students. Annual room and board charges average approximately 410,750, and vary from campus to campus and the type of residence hall selected. Today, an average budget for a residential student (including tuition, fees, room and board, books and other expenses) is about $30,400 per year.
Recent studies indicate that those who complete college, on average, earn about 75% more annually than those who have only completed high school. The trend toward greater dispartiy in earnings between college graduates and high school graduates (estimated to be about $1,000,000 over a lifetime, on average) is expected to continue, given today's knowledge and technology-oriented economy.
For AY 2014-2015, on average, a full-time undergraduate student at one of the traditional New Jersey state colleges and universities has a tuition/fees tab of $12,400. On average, the student spends about $3,500 on transportation, and $2,200 on books. However, numerous programs are available to help defray tuition, fees, and some other costs for students of limited means, and high-achieving students.
Sticker Price vs. Students' Actual Out-of-Pocket Expenses
Full-time students at state colleges receive, on average, over $3,000 in grants per year from one or more of three sources: federal grants/work study, state grants, and institutional grants. Thus, the net -- or out-of-pocket -- education cost for the typical, full-time student is about $9,000. Moreover, not factored in are government loans, which must be paid back, and miscellaneous other forms of grants and aid that further defray the cost.
The upshot is that while New Jersey state colleges and universities have certainly become more costly over the past decade, given rising student financial aid to help with costs, New Jersey state colleges/universities offer attractive and affordable pathways to a high-quality higher education experience.
A Shifting Fiscal Responsibility
- Higher education in New Jersey, unlike K-12 education, is not constitutionally mandated and not free of charge. While the State of New Jersey, through various means, pays part of the cost of education at the state colleges and universities, it does not pay the full cost.
- Tuition and fees for a full-time, in-state student at the eight traditional institutions are, on average, higher than at comparable public colleges and universities in nearby states such as Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York and Connecticut.
- When comparing the level of state support to the amount of tuition and fee revenues, student tuition and fees make up about two-thirds of what the state defines as a college's "education and general expenses." Various state allocations cover most of the balance. In recent years, the state's share has been shrinking, both in actual dollars and as a percentage of educational costs.
- To keep tuition with reach, the state must adequately fund public higher education. As tuition goes up, the state risks excluding students in the lower and middle ranges of the economic spectrum.
- Tuition at the state colleges/universities is considered a good value because it is a fraction of the actual cost of education, and yields many economic and social benefits, especially given the stature of each of the institutions.
- In addition to directly funding institutions, the state provides Tuition Aid Grants and other special grants to students with demonstrated financial need. The state colleges/universities have strongly supported continued funding of these programs as a top priority. They help keep the doors of opportunity open.
- As the result of the recently passed law providing tuition equity, New Jersey resident students lacking documentation of U.S. citizenship may qualify for New Jersey resident tuition. For information on how to apply, students should contact the New Jersey institution where they plan to enroll.
- Specifically, and based on the assumption the state will provide adequate support for institutional operations, the Association supports robust investment in the TAG of EOF programs, equity in the availability of funds to students in the various sectors, and prioritizing support to the neediest students when programs cannot be fully funded.
- While tuition as a percentage of per capita disposable income remained relatively constant during the 1980's, it increased during the 1990's and in recent years. Today, families are spending more of their disposable income on tuition.
Tuition and Inflation
Rising costs not met by state funding, and unfunded facilities costs, are two principal factors which can make tuition and fees increse faster than the CPI.
Cutbacks in state appropriations during difficult economic times have caused the burden of cost to dramatically shift toward students and families. The less the state provides, more students must pay.
Less than a decade ago, New Jersey was one of seven states that budgeted zero dollars on higher education capital projects. Consequently, the institutions must largely finance such projects independently, incurring significant annual debt-service payments. In the end, students pay these costs. As a direct result of borrowing money to overcomethis policy shortcoming, New Jersey's state colleges/universities are among the most leveraged institutions of their kind in the nation. However, due to high student demand and prudent resource management, bond ratings remain strong.
With the infusion of funds from recent state-approved bond programs, institutions are able to get help for current projects underway. Many of the projects will require institutions to pay a share of the costs, however.