February 23, 2011
Members of the Rutgers Community:
Yesterday Governor Christie proposed a $29.4 billion state budget for Fiscal Year 2012, a plan that, in recognition of the state’s continuing fiscal difficulties, reduces overall spending by 2.6 percent. Among the cuts are reductions in most of the executive departments of state government. It is gratifying that, against this backdrop, the governor counted funding for higher education as a “core priority.”
The plan provides level funding of operating support to the state’s public colleges and universities. The governor also has proposed a $27 million increase for Tuition Aid Grants, a program on which more than 11,000 Rutgers undergraduates depend for financial aid.
Preserving operating support and increasing student aid are welcome signs that the long-term decline in higher education funding has come to a halt. We are hopeful that this shift will pave the way for future reinvestment in our colleges and universities. As the governor’s Higher Education Task Force stated in its recent report, a strong higher education system is an essential component of a robust and innovative economy.
I also note that Governor Christie has called for health benefit and pension reforms that would apply to all public employees in New Jersey, including public higher education.
The governor’s proposal is the first step in the budget process, which now shifts to the Legislature. Like the governor, the Legislature faces difficult decisions in balancing urgent priorities with limited resources and rising expenses. Rutgers will monitor the process and play an active role of advocacy on behalf of higher education as the state budget is deliberated and finalized between now and the end of June.
Richard L. McCormick
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey