The tuition increase will not contribute to high-profile payouts following last year's athletic scandals, including the departures of the school's athletic director, head men's basketball coach, and interim general counsel, said Nancy Winterbauer, Rutgers vice president for university budgets. It also will not go toward costs of the school's merger with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, she said.
Instead, she said, a 2.5 percent increase was necessary for faculty salaries as obligated under union contracts, and the balance acts as "seed money" as the school undergoes a "strategic planning initiative."
"We take very seriously the access part of our mission. Is every student going to be able to come here without struggling? No," Winterbauer told reporters after the meeting. "I know lots of them are struggling."
Some of those students attended Thursday's meeting, and about 10 spoke during a public comment period. Some shared personal stories to plead for a tuition freeze. During the vote, they used an Occupy-style "human microphone" to call for tuition to remain unchanged. They left after the vote, chanting, "Shame! Shame!"
One newly inducted board member, Lora Fong, sat out the vote, citing a conflict of interest.
After hearing the public testimony, Ralph Izzo, who had just stepped down as chairman, moved to remove modest from the resolution approving the tuition increase. The word could be offensive, he said, given the testimonies about financial struggles.
The board also approved an operating budget of more than $3.6 billion. This year's budget began a new process of splitting the budget by campus. New Brunswick's budget is more than $1.7 billion. Camden's budget will be $178 million, and the Newark campus will operate on $330 million. "Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences," composed largely of former UMDNJ schools, will have a budget of $1.4 billion.
The overall tuition and fees increases for the university struck Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, as "on the high side."
"It's unfortunate and certainly goes against the spirit that higher education needs to move in," said Vedder, who heads the Washington think tank, which specializes in financial sustainability of the nation's colleges and universities.
Tuition changes have varied at other schools in the Philadelphia region.
Rowan University froze its tuition and fees. After a 2 percent increase in room and board, in-state students on campus will pay $23,300 in tuition, fees, and room and board next year.
Ali Houshmand, the school's president, attributed the cost freeze to changes in budget accountability and an enrollment increase that has brought more revenue into the school.
Richard Stockton College also has announced a freeze in its tuition and fees.
Some increases, however, including Rutgers', surpassed the core rate of inflation, about 1.7 percent in the last 12 months.
Pennsylvania's 14 state universities will raise tuition 3 percent - $194 - next year under a measure the board of governors approved Tuesday. In-state undergraduate students will pay $6,622 next year. Room and board varies among the schools.
At Pennsylvania State University, the board of trustees is scheduled to vote Friday on a proposed 3.39 percent tuition increase and 4.2 percent increase in room and board.
Also at Rutgers' Thursday meeting, the board announced a new task force to examine university governance. It will report back to the university's two governing boards "shortly after Thanksgiving," chairman Gerald C. Harvey said in a statement.
The move comes after State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) proposed eliminating the university's board of trustees, which usually serves in an advisory capacity. The smaller board of governors handles most matters of university governance.
Sweeney released an online advertisement attacking the board of trustees this week, following a campaign including commentary pieces describing the university's governance as outdated and confusing.
In response, a university statement pointed to the creation of the task force to examine its governance structure, adding: "The work of this task force will not be influenced by political advertising."
Contact Jonathan Lai at 856-779-3220, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @elaijuh.