Student fee increases: a necessary evil
The New Jersey budget process and hearing timeline stretches from October to July for the next fiscal year, which will become effective on July 1. As a state school, Rutgers receives federal funding and is a part of this process, and the Board of Governors is currently finalizing the University budget for the upcoming year.
Rutgers’ overall budget increased drastically from $2.2 billion in the 2012 to 2013 fiscal year to $3.6 billion from 2013 to 2014. The increase was expected because of recent transitions for the University such as the merger with University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and the highly anticipated move into the Big Ten conference. This budget comes from a variety of sources, including research funding and state appropriations. But of course, a part of it is money that we’re going to have to shell out ourselves in the form of tuition and student fees — a part that unfortunately increases more and more as the state continues to prove that it’s unwilling to work with Rutgers to provide us with much-needed funding.
While any potential tuition increases for next year have yet to be heard, the University has already drafted a proposal for increased student fees. Every student at Rutgers pays student fees, which are separate from tuition. Student fees cover student services and programs separate from academic programs, such as transportation, facilities, health services and general student affairs. For the current year, these fees for full-time undergraduate students come to a total of $2,353, and there is an overall proposed increase of about $50 for next year.
Given the transitional period the entire University is going through, we can understand why there will be this increase. If anything, we’d rather see more of an increase in these fees that go directly toward student services and programs than in our tuition, much of which goes to professors’ and faculty members’ salaries. For example, some of the proposed increases for student affairs will go toward covering the cost of an increase in the minimum wage for student workers and program funding for cultural centers. The “Undergraduate Education” increase is for things such as new, adaptive technology for class use and funding for the Office of Disability Services. The health centers will use the proposed extra funding to focus on treatment and support for students recovering from substance abuse, among other programs. These are all improvements that we feel are important for our student experience and the University as a whole.
We are skeptical about some of proposed uses for the funding, though. The plan suggests creating new job positions to oversee certain programs. Of course it’s important to make sure all programs being funded are managed appropriately, but the costs of hiring new people to take on the responsibility might be better used elsewhere. Those responsibilities could instead be spread out among faculty members we already have who might be willing and interested in taking them on.
We commend the efforts of those involved in the process of budgeting because we know how much time and effort is put into assessing the University community’s needs, determining what needs funding and then making sure everything is allocated appropriately. But we do wish that the entire process were more transparent and easily accessible to the general public. We had difficulty finding the appropriate documents online, and we’re sure it’s just as difficult for most other students to find, too. The administration needs more student input to assess where they should be spending more money and where they can afford to make cuts, but that won’t be possible if it’s so difficult for most of us to get any information. With more open communication between the state and the administration to get better funding, and between the administration and students for input on budgeting, we should be able to know exactly where our money is going and how we can make sure it improves Rutgers for us.