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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The Rutgers Board of Governors unanimously approved today a $3.78 billion operating budget with a 2.4 percent tuition increase, bringing the average tuition cost for the full time Rutgers-New Brunswick undergraduate up by $276.
Last year, a full time Schools of Arts & Sciences student had to pay $10,945, and for the 2015-2016 academic year, that number will increase to $11,217. Part-time undergraduate students will see their tuition go up an average of $9 per credit.
Student fees which were on average $2695 for the 2014-2015 academic year, will go up 1.9 percent, or an average cost of $2730 for the coming year.
A recent report issued by the Budget and Finance Committee of the University Senate discovered that approximately $700 of each student’s campus fees go to subsidize athletics, which last year received a $36 million subsidy.
Rutgers-New Brunswick students will also see the annual cost of room & board go up by 2.8 percent, or an average of $224 for the year.
Nancy S. Winterbauer, Vice President of University Budgeting, explained at the meeting that the increases were mainly the result of two factors: declining levels of state appropriations and recent salary negotiations with the unions.
A representative from the union could not be immediately reached for comment.
“We have agreements with most of our unions and those agreements call for 2% salary increases”, Winterbauer said, “That’s a major cost driver in a university where our major cost driver is salaries.”
In April, the Board of Governors held an open public hearing on budget, tuition and fees, which was heavily attended by faculty, students and staff.
Students from the Students for Shared Governance and other organizations protested against any proposed hikes to tuition and fees.
Many held up signs and chanted as faculty, students, and staff expressed anger towards Rutgers’ financial practices. “We need a tuition freeze because so many of my friends are struggling with this,” said Rutgers senior Hannah Roe, “This is an issue of our generation.”
“We shouldn’t’t have to spend hours testifying just to ask you to have our best interest in mind”, said Rutgers sophomore Sivan Rosenthal, in her testimony to the Board. “Low-end tuition is possible, it’s possible on a national scale, and it’s definitely possible at Rutgers.”
Nancy Winterbauer, who was present at the meeting, told protestors and attendees at the meeting that “We want to assure you that we will continue to do everything we can to strike the right balance.”
Members of the Union of Administrators also attended the Board meeting in April, decrying what they felt was a diversion of money to the athletics program.
“Rutgers’ budget seems to have money for crazy priorities,” Union president Lucy Millerand told The Bergen Record. “That $1.2 million would be about a 1 percent raise for my entire union of 2,300 people.”
According to Millerand, the $1.2 million in question was, the severance pay made to former athletic director Tim Pernetti in the wake of the Mike Rice abuse scandal.
Student activists shared the same opinion that athletics played a major role in the tuition increases.
“Athletics is not singled out in the budget resolutions, but instead is lumped in with other auxiliary enterprises, such as parking”, Students for Shared Governance wrote in a statement, “The total losses expected from Rutgers’ auxiliary enterprises for the next fiscal year are $56,347,723, most of which can be expected to be attributed to athletics.”
Activists and union members at Rutgers have also claimed that the Rutgers-UMDNJ merger in 2013 contributed to tuition increases as a result of the $50 million price tag on the merger.
“I think you will see and the president said, “We will not do the merger on the backs of students” and we haven’t”, Winterbauer said in response to these statements.
Barchi took that stance throughout 2013, and at many strategic planning town hall meetings. However, when testifying at the Assembly Budget Hearing in April, Barchi reversed his stance.
He told committee members that Rutgers has anywhere between $17 million and $25 million remaining that would have to be spent on the merger, calling it an “unfunded mandate.”
“Everything we’ve done to reduce costs is eaten up by the $50 million” and said that money could have helped keep tuition down, going against previous statements that the $50 million would not be put onto students.
In addition, the creation of the Rutgers Biological and Health Sciences unit added a further $503 million of debt, while construction, expansions and renovations across the New Brunswick-Piscataway campuses added $650 million of debt.
As a result, the University saw a slew of downgradings in 2013 by investor’s agencies such as Moody’s.
Last month, Mood’y’s reaffirdmed the Aa3 credit rating for Rutgers, citing “very low margins generated by the newly restructured Rutgers University and dependence on the A2-rated State of New Jersey for a little more than 20% of total operating revenue.”