July 17, 2019 | 92° F

EDITORIAL: U. must show how it balances its books

Rutgers lacks transparency in how it spends unrestricted funds


Rutgers students, faculty and staff tend to be the under perpetual guise that the University, as a public institution, never has enough money. We’re stretched thin, we don’t have money to fix leaking buses, we don’t have money for building renovations, we don’t have money to invest in cultural centers, we have to cut certain programs, there’s no money for this, there’s no money for that, and more. The litany of assumptions are exhausting, and they serve as the crux to the justification for tuition raises in the past years.

The Board of Governors voted to hike Rutgers tuition again for the 2016-2017 school year earlier in July by 1.7 percent, or $241 this fall. This increase is lower than the average tuition hike of 2.4 percent over the past five years, and, it’s argued that Rutgers’ tuition hikes are lower than other public colleges. Yet despite how there’s a lower tuition increase now compared to the years past, looking back from 2011 to 2016, there’s a significantly higher percentage of tuition increase when comparing those two years. Just because tuition is increasing incrementally doesn’t mean that students’ purses aren’t choking from having the purse strings pulled tighter and tighter in the last few years. More money transferred to the University means more jobs a student has to take and less money spent on a student’s quality of life.

However, the University actually has plenty of money — but they aren’t transparent about where this money is going. Rutgers is sitting on $770 million of unrestricted funds that come from a variety of sources such as the general fund balance, clinical income and revenue from sales and services among others. The money in unrestricted funds are categorized into either earmarked money that might’ve been given by donors who want the money to be designated for a specific department of program or it’s money from students.

To illustrate the latter point, course fees play a small part (a very small part) in the reserves. For example, about 1,000 students sign up for the Dance Appreciation course every semester. The course has a $170 fee, but not all of the money is spent toward plays and performances the money is assumed to be for, and about $40 of that $170 will end up in unrestricted funds. If in every semester 1,000 students unknowingly pay $40 toward unrestricted funds, then that’s about $40,000 per semester supplied by students for University projects they have little to say about. Students don’t have a voice on where money is spent, especially because transparency is nonexistent. It’s expected that the money students put into the University will be invested back into their college experience, but they really don’t know millions of dollars are put into.

The most worrisome aspect about the administration’s opaqueness on unrestricted reserves is that the elemental reason for their lack of transparency on where the money is going and what projects the money supports is that students won’t be happy with the decisions being made. The administration won’t disclose information, because the Rutgers community won’t like what’s going on. Nowadays, students increasingly feel as if money is being diverted away from projects that improve the college experience of current students, and are rather invested into superficial projects that makes the University look good for prospective students. 

Sure, for a mammoth university like Rutgers, $770 million in unrestricted reserves can easily be spent in a day — there’s a plethora of problems that need to be addressed and an abundance of brilliant, potential projects that could be given funds to start. However, at the most basic level, the Rutgers community not only deserves, but also has a right to know where its money is going.

The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 148th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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