Kean & Gopal Bill to Examine State Funding for Higher Education
Requires Development of Funding Formula to Support College & Universities, Keep Tuition Affordable
TRENTON – Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean and Senator Vin Gopal are sponsoring bipartisan legislation that would help ensure predictable state funding for New Jersey’s colleges and universities to keep tuition affordable for students.
“Now that National College Decision Day has passed, many students and their parents are likely coming to grips with the reality that paying for tuition this fall, even at a supposedly lower-cost state school, isn’t as affordable as they had hoped,” said Kean (R-21). “That’s because our state has consistently underfunded our colleges and universities leading to tuition increases and a crisis of affordability. It’s time for New Jersey to systematically address the funding needs of our state colleges to lower costs for students and reduce the need for loans that may take decades to repay after graduation.”
According to data from the New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education, full time in-state tuition and fees at New Jersey’s public four-year institutions of higher education increased by 27.8% from 2009 to 2018.
In-state students paid an average tuition of $14,956 at New Jersey’s four-year public colleges this year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. That’s approximately 40% higher than the average of $10,440 that the College Board said students paid nationwide in the 2019-2020 school year.
“New Jersey needs to provide predictable state funding for colleges and universities,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth). “The effect of student loan debt has dramatically slowed down life plans for young individuals just getting out of college. Most try to pay off their debt responsibly – not moving out of parent’s homes, no added or extra expenses, taking on multiple jobs to help make ends meet – and it still is not enough to get them out of the hole. Making higher education provide predictable state funding will allow tuition to be more affordable for students so they can go on to live financially successful lives after graduation.”
Kean and Gopal, both of whom serve on the Senate Higher Education Committee, said the higher tuition rates and rapid increases shouldered by New Jersey college students result from the state’s lack of a funding formula for higher education, which makes it too easy for lawmakers to overlook the needs of colleges and universities at budget time.
They noted that just 3.63% of New Jersey’s tax revenues are allocated to higher education, the seventh-lowest percentage among the 50 states.
“If we had a formula in place for college funding, there’s a much better chance that our public colleges would get more of the annual state support they need to help prevent tuition increases,” said Kean. “With a formula in place, the default would be them getting the money they need, unlike today. Lawmakers and the governor would have to make a conscious decision to not fund the formula in any given year. ”
The legislation, S-1230, establishes the “New Jersey Higher Education Funding Formula Commission” to examine the funding formulas of other states, review the funding needs of New Jersey colleges and universities, and develop a funding formula and recommendations, including legislation, for implementation.
“Establishing a Funding Formula Commission will help ensure these colleges and universities get the funding they need and in turn help with rising tuition costs,” said Gopal. “The commission’s recommendations will help our state colleges in a way that does not currently exist in New Jersey. A formula would support funding, and help our young minds focus more on their education and less on potential financial struggles.”