"In tough fiscal times, students are being burdened less," he told the state Board of Higher Education at its monthly meeting. "Our institutions have made tough choices and are to be commended."
The lower-than-expected increases in tuition come when the colleges are squeezed by a decline in state aid for the third straight year. At most campuses, officials made painful cuts in programs and staff to keep down student costs, he said.
The state board, which sets guidelines for college tuition but not the actual fees, had urged the colleges to hold tuition increases to 9 percent. In May, the board said that colleges that raised tuition beyond that would have to provide additional financial aid to soften the impact on needy students.
Yesterday, Goldberg credited that policy with preventing a spate of double- digit tuition increases, such as those imposed by most colleges last year.
Even so, some college officials said they could not stay within the 9 percent limit and maintain their programs.
Leaders of the state's community colleges said they were especially hard- pressed. "We are teetering perilously close to the edge," said Flora Edwards, president of Middlesex County College in Edison, where tuition will increase 11 percent in the fall, to $1,200 annually.
Tuition will rise by 22 percent at Cumberland County College; 21 percent at Ocean County College, and 15 percent at Salem Community College in Carneys Point. Despite the increases, tuition at those schools remains comparatively low, state officials said.
Among the nine state colleges, which are more expensive, most held tuition increases to 9 percent or less.
The exceptions were Ramapo State College in Mahwah, Bergen County, which increased tuition by 15.4 percent to $2,226 annually; Jersey City State
College, which increased tuition by 10 percent to $1,950, and Glassboro State
College, which raised tuition by 9.8 percent to $2,144 a year.
Rutgers University imposed a 9 percent increase, bringing annual tuition to $3,114.
Despite the increases, Goldberg said, New Jersey's colleges and universities remained affordable and charged tuition that compared favorably with state schools in other Northeastern states.