Rutgers raises tuition by 2.2 percent

Posted: July 18, 2014

NEW BRUNSWICK - Tuition at Rutgers University will increase 2.2 percent for the "typical" undergraduate student this fall, the university's board of governors decided Wednesday.

Base tuition in the university's most popular school - Arts and Sciences - will increase to $10,954 for the 2014-15 school year, up from $10,718. Mandatory fees will also rise.

A full-time, in-state undergraduate in the School of Arts and Sciences in New Brunswick will pay $13,813 in tuition and fees next year; a similar student in Camden will pay $13,683. Programs in other schools, such as engineering or business, and on other campuses may cost more.

Housing rates will increase about 1 percent across the three campuses. Meal plans will remain the same cost at Newark and increase 2.2 percent at Camden and New Brunswick.

The increases come as state funding remains flat, but costs - driven by staff and faculty pay, which makes up 60 percent of the budget - continue to rise, said Nancy Winterbauer, Rutgers vice president for university budgeting.

"The real need for us to contain costs and be affordable," she said, while balancing "cost pressures and flat state funding support make that a difficult equation," she said.

Rutgers will receive about $455 million in direct operating funding from the state, with an additional $341 million in employee benefits, she said, calling flat state funding Rutgers' "biggest constraint" as it sought to balance its budget.

"This is again a very difficult budget year for Rutgers," Winterbauer said at Wednesday's board meeting in New Brunswick.

Winterbauer noted that New Jersey's higher education funding is based on a philosophy of "high tuition, high aid," in which high tuition and fees are offset by large financial aid awards to students.

Just more than half of incoming freshmen at New Brunswick and about two-thirds at Newark and Camden receive financial aid.

The board of governors adopted a $3.67 billion budget Wednesday. Revenue from student tuition and fees, at $1.02 billion, will be more than double the university's funding from the state. That ratio has shifted over time; in 1990, the opposite was true, and state funding was worth twice tuition and fees.

Assemblyman Joseph Cryan (D., Union) on Wednesday called on the board to freeze tuition and fees.

"While notice of today's meeting might make it seem like a dialogue to discuss tuition and fee rates on campus, it should more accurately be described as a meeting to determine how hefty of an increase next year's class will have to endure," Cryan, a member of the Assembly Higher Education Committee, said in a statement. "Unfortunately, Rutgers, like almost every other college in America, continues to raise their tuition, not lower it."

In the last five years, sticker price for tuition and mandatory fees at Rutgers-Camden has increased 17 percent. But when adjusted for inflation, the change from the 2009-10 school year to the forthcoming 2014-15 school year is much lower: 5.49 percent.

This year's increases in tuition and fees - between 2.3 and 2.51, depending on the campus - are relatively modest when compared to past years, said Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

"This is not remarkable. But it's in keeping with a national trend, which is to try to moderate the fee increases in light of growing public concerns about them and tepid enrollments," he said.

Vedder, who noted he is normally a critic of university spending, said he could not fault Rutgers in this case because of the realities of flat funding and increasing costs.

"It's an austerity period for the school. . . . How is Rutgers handling this reality? Limited state funding, flat state funding, little tuition increase," he said. "Rutgers is probably going to face . . . having to make some real cuts."

Those cuts could be on their way soon, with the university renegotiating contracts with almost all its unions, and financial problems inherited by Rutgers' absorption of most of the now-defunct University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

"These dollars are tight, and so we will have to really do major reallocations, major cost-cutting to live within the budgets that we have with these dollars," Winterbauer told the board.

jlai@phillynews.com856-779-3220 @elaijuh

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