RUSA addresses financial concerns, U. budget crisis


In an effort to shed light on the University's budgetary situation, a panel of Rutgers University Student Assembly members addressed financial concerns a college student may have.

The event, "Rutgers Budget and the State of Higher Education," was held in Livingston Hall and gave a thorough analysis of the University's budget, how federal and private loans differ and what the burden of college debt is for students.

RUSA Vice President Matthew Cordeiro said although many statistics were provided through the presentation, the most important aspect to understand is things are changing.

"At one point, there were tons of colleges you could go to and they were accessible," said Cordeiro, a School of Arts and Sciences junior. "But now that is starting to change and that change has accelerated."

An example of this change is the increase in tuition in past decades, which Cordeiro said does not truly reflect the ups and downs of the national economy.

"Over the years and even in times of bust and boom, state support for the University has decreased so this is a really interesting problem to have," he said.

University Affairs Chair Kristen Clarke said it is this decrease in state aid and increase in tuition that will eventually rid of a student's ability to pay for their education.

"In 1990, the state was paying a little over 65 percent of a student's education and the student was only paying 35 percent. Now, that is actually reversed," said Clarke, a School of Arts and Sciences junior.

Erik Straub, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, added the increase in tuition also means an increase in debt for college students, which he said reached unprecedented levels in recent years.

"For the first time this June, The Wall Street Journal reported that student debt had surpassed credit card debt," Straub said. "In a short period of time, debt has skyrocketed for students."

Straub said this is a concrete example that students have fewer choices in a higher education system than in previous generations.

"Debt has doubled in the last 10 years so this is not something that everybody knows what it's like," he said. "This is a completely new phenomenon that people did not expect."

Cordeiro made sure those in attendance knew this phenomenon is not unique to the University or the state.

"This is not just a trend local to New Jersey," he said. "This is a national trend and people all over the country are experiencing the same effects with student loans."

In addition to students increasing their college debt, Kevin Lyman, a School of Engineering sophomore, said this means they are also increasing the chance of having to default their college loans while making profits for private lenders.

"If the government and banks are profiting from you defaulting, that gives them no incentive to control tuition rates," Lyman said. "Student loans guarantee income for colleges whether or not you can afford them."

With the power banks now possess in higher education, Joel Salvino, a School of Arts and Sciences senator, added it is now corporations like Sallie Mae or Bank of America that make college available for those who cannot afford it.

"There are not enough government loans to appease all the students who need," said Salvino, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. "Banks are the ones who create all these advertisements, and they are the ones who fuel the record enrollment in school."

But Salvino said the way for students to better this situation is to actively organize and wean out the problems to avoid further problems.

"As government de-funds our future, private banks make profit from our pain," he said. "The banks and politicians don't care about us. The future of our school is our hands."

As state funding continues to decrease, Internal Affairs Chair John Aspray said this will cause the University to treat education as a commodity and turn a public institution into a corporation.

"The idea is, in order to increase enrollment and bring revenue to the University you have to brand the University as providing a special service," said Aspray, a School of Arts and Sciences senior.

An example of the University branding its special service is the expansion of the stadium, which Aspray said the University could not afford.

"You can like cars but you shouldn't buy a ferrari if you don't have money for rent," he said.


Devin Sikorski

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