September 20, 2018 | ° F

Summer months see more budget perils

The Board of Governors in July increased tuition by 8 percent for this year, and University officials contend the main reason for the rise is the 10.8 percent of state aid that was lopped off the state budget.

The average School of Arts and Sciences student is paying $9,268 in tuition, according to a University press release. Vice President for University Budgeting Nancy Winterbauer said the additional costs students face comes from an unbalanced seesaw of financial issues the University must confront.

"As our costs go up, the state support is going down," Winterbauer said, adding that the available state funds for the University is almost $36 million less than last year.

BOG student representative Ryan Cooke said despite the tuition rise, the University operating budget of $1.816 billion - a jump from $1.7 billon last year - is a skinny one.

"It's a bare-bones budget," the Livingston College senior said. "We try to keep [the tuition] as low as possible, but that's what we need to operate this fiscal year."

He added that increasing expenses for students goes against his own principles, but it was necessary considering the financial reality.

"The fact of the matter is, I think less than a third of the money we receive to conduct our operations comes form the state, so obviously that lack of funding has to be offset by tuition," Cooke said.

In addition to tuition, costs in dining and housing services rose 4.9 percent, although Winterbauer said the University tried to keep those increases as low as possible, to keep the University education affordable to students - thus their aim was to keep the increase below that of tuition.

The increase in these services comes from higher costs associated with food and utilities, Winterbauer said - a nationwide trend.

In addition to rising room and board costs, student fees, associated with outside instruction, went up 5.9 percent, she said.

"The fees largely provide services to students outside of the classroom," Winterbauer said. "We really tried to increase those fees as little as possible because again, we really want to make sure that the total students are facing [is] reasonable."

Another cost factored into tuition hike is increases in salaries among staff and faculty at the University. These increases are union-negotiated, Winterbauer said, and consistent with salary increases of state employees.

"In general, people's salaries increase largely because the costs that people have to bear are increasing," she said, citing fuel and utility expenses. Also, she said, some employees were given raises for exemplary performance.

Despite the rise of expenses on-campus, Winterbauer said she is confident that lower-income students will still be able to attend the University due to financial aid programs, via federal, state and University sources.

To help students afford the University, the board allocated an extra $2.6 million to the Rutgers Assistant Grant, an aid program designed to complement student financial aid from the state and federal sources.

"We like to think of it as a financial aid safety net," Winterbauer said.

She said even with tuition increases, lower-income students are still coming to the school because financial aid helps them make it there.

The University completed an analysis to find out if the consistently higher price tag for Rutgers meant bad news for would-be-first-years from low-income families, Winterbauer said. The administration found that the number of students from low-income families has remained consistent, no matter how high the price climbed.

Last year, 51 percent of students receive some form of financial aid, she said.

"Rutgers has a long history of representing students from all economic backgrounds, and the analysis we do says this continues to be the case," Winterbauer said.

Michelle Walbaum

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