Rutgers Board of Trustees allots $2 M. to aid students in financial need
University President Robert L. Barchi has announced that $2 million will be donated to support tuition assistance grants, emergency assistance and student-based food pantries through 2020 as his administration considers new strategies to address students' financial needs.
Commissioned in June 2017, the Task Force on Student Aid was assembled by the University’s Board of Trustees and charged with studying current financial challenges faced by students, educating the Board on these challenges and developing recommendations for how Rutgers and the Board can solve them, according to the Task Force report.
Barchi announced that as a result of the Task Force's report, the Board reaffirmed its resolution from earlier this year to provide $2 million for in-need student resources across Rutgers through 2020, according to an email to the Rutgers community.
These funds are spending allocations from eight separate endowed funds controlled by the Board, Barchi said in the email.
“These funding sources are a lifeline for students struggling to pay tuition or faced with a short-term financial emergency, and the Board’s commitment to supplementing them is extremely gratifying,” he said.
Student Work Opportunities
In lieu of increasing need-based aid, the Task Force recommends that Rutgers provides more opportunities for institutional money through the fundraising efforts of the Rutgers University Foundation and additional emergency funds from its budgets that meet the need of campus scholarships, retention grants and student emergency situations, according to the report.
It recommends that the University increase the availability of part-time and seasonal employment opportunities by increasing the Federal Work-Study Program match at New Brunswick to 100 percent — equaling Rutgers—Newark and Camden — and revise work-study requirements so students can participate after their first year.
Rutgers can also provide additional on-campus work opportunities — ideally those that “provide meaningful work that helps to prepare students for future employment,” according to the report.
Leveraging the presence of administration, faculty and their connections with local businesses, Rutgers can find more off-campus employment opportunities as well.
The Task force estimates that Rutgers can collect an average of $900,000 per year for the next 10 years from the repayment of its Institutional Capital Contribution — when available resources exceed a school’s needs in the foreseeable future.
“These funds could then be 'loaned forward' to new students, allowing the University to provide loans to 400 students,” the report stated.
It also suggests that the University builds on its own loan program by contributing up to $2 million a year over a 4-year period. The Task Force estimates this would provide need-based loans to an additional 1,000 students and, if the funds are reinvested, would become self-sustained.
Financial Literacy and Education
Among other suggestions, the report recommends all students participate in a financial education module at orientation, that Rutgers enhances its current financial education module to include hypothetical scenarios of debt accumulation and provides free non-credit financial workshops to students at all University locations.
The report recognizes that food insecurity among students is a national problem to varying degrees.
To alleviate this, Rutgers should continue raising awareness about food insecurity and of the various services available to students, while working to eliminate its stigmas on campus, the report stated.
It can also extend pantry hours and include weekends to increase access, explore options for the consistent funding of pantries and provide additional emergency funds from its budgets during the yearly planning to match campus needs, according to the report.
Task Force Findings
At no point did the Task Force attempt to look at recommending a free college education at Rutgers and, instead, looked at ways to increase the total allotment of financial aid per student.
At the state level, New Jersey was estimated to be the fourth most generous state in the country for total need-based aid provided in fiscal year 2015.
“… While the amount of total aid provided to students continues to increase, the average amount provided to each student has increased at a slower pace than the total cost of attending Rutgers University, resulting in an increasing gap between what students receive in aid and the cost of attendance,” according to the report.
New Jersey state appropriations have stagnated in recent years and not kept pace with inflation, said Kathy Dettloff, vice president of Financial Planning and Budgeting in an interview with The Daily Targum earlier this year.
This may signal an increase of in-state student tuition as state appropriations offset the University’s operating costs, Dettloff said at the time.
The report cited the University’s modest 1.85 percent increase in student tuition and fees as one of many factors impacting the rate of financial aid growth.
“Although Rutgers is committed to providing students with the highest quality education while keeping tuition and fee increases to a minimum — as evidenced in this year’s increase of only 1.85 percent — there are a number of factors impacting the rate of growth in aid,” the report stated.
Earlier this year, the Board of Governors approved a tuition and fee increase of 2.3 percent for the 2018-2019 academic year. A typical Rutgers—New Brunswick School of Arts and Sciences student living on campus will now pay approximately $591 more than last year — $337 if they are not living on campus, according to Rutgers Today.
The Task Force divided its suggestions between Rutgers, the Board of Governors and the Rutgers University Foundation.
It recommends that, among other ideas, Rutgers offers new and continuing student federal aid programs, ample student work opportunities, raises awareness of food insecurity — and other financial need-based issues like it — while taking steps toward curbing it.
Enhance the current financial orientation survey into a financial literacy/education program.
Continue to build out a coordinated system focused on student success rates across administrative units that could lead to decreased time to graduation.
Continue raising awareness about food insecurity on campus and of the various services available to students.
Explore options for the consistent funding of food pantries.
Continue working with the legislature on TAG funding … The Task Force also recommends an expansion of this effort to include advocacy for Full-Year TAG Funding and TAG funding eligibility for DREAMers.
Modify current University policy so that students who qualify for the Federal Work Study program can opt-in for their second, third and fourth year, as well as their first year.
Rutgers—New Brunswick will reinstitute the 100 percent overmatch of the Federal Work-Study Program. Whether this is accomplished at once, or with gradual increases over time.
Consider expansion of the Rutgers University Loan Program (RULP) to help offset the sunsetting of the Perkins Loan Program.
Coordinate across schools and departments to provide additional on-campus work opportunities beyond Federal Work-Study and ensure students are made aware of opportunities and where to look for them. Coordinate with Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences to connect students seeking on-campus employment with available positions.
Provide for additional emergency funds from local and central budgets to a level commensurate with the needs of the various campuses. Assess and understand the current need and use of funds to highlight common needs across campuses that could be addressed from a central fund. These central funds could possibly be distributed through the new One Stop Student Service Centers that will be located on each campus.
“ … The amount of available financial aid during the past five years has not kept up with increases in the cost of attendance during that same period of time. As a result, the unfunded 'cost of attendance' (tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, personal supplies, transportation and miscellaneous costs) has increased, and more students have gaps of unmet need in their financial aid packages,” according to the report.
The Rutgers Foundation
One of the Task Force’s recommendations is that the University explores whether its endowed funds are underutilized and can be redistributed based on need.
"Historically the prioritization of need-based aid funding has been lower than other fundraising initiatives and fundraising efforts have reflected that lack of priority. The Task Force believes that with an increased priority level and focus ... there are multiple opportunities to increase the amounts raised for need-based aid," the report stated.