Statement Regarding the Proposed New Jersey State Budget for Fiscal Year 2005

Richard L. McCormick, President
Thursday, April 8, 2004

Rutgers is appreciative to Gov. James E. McGreevey for proposing level base operating funding for Rutgers and for all of higher education for the 2005 fiscal year. Following three years of budget cuts, this is good news and suggests that we are going in the right direction. Rutgers is also appreciative for the partial funding the governor has proposed for our salary improvements, for his suggested increases in the Tuition Aid Grant program that supports our neediest students, and for the support he has proposed for the Outstanding Scholars Recruitment Program that enables us to retain within New Jersey many of our state’s most outstanding high school graduates. I hope the Legislature will join me in supporting these proposals by our governor.

It is important to recognize, however, that a level budget cannot restore the dollars that New Jersey’s public colleges and universities lost over the past three fiscal years. Counting the base budget cuts of FY02, FY03, and FY04, together with the under-funding of our salary improvements during those three years, the Rutgers budget is down by $61 million. That is an annual figure; if not for the problems of the past three years, our current annual state funding would be $61 million more than it is right now. The consequences of this loss are felt most keenly by our students. Dozens of faculty positions are vacant because we do not have the dollars to fill them. As a result, our students are sometimes unable to get the courses they need when they need them, with potential impacts upon their time to graduation. Too many classes are being taught by part-time lecturers. Our libraries have repeatedly reduced acquisitions of newly published materials that are essential for research and scholarship. And our students too often find themselves in overcrowded, somewhat shabby classrooms or laboratories because we do not have the resources required to repair and maintain our facilities.

We understand it may not be possible for New Jersey to restore the $61 million in a single year, but we would like to work together with the governor and the Legislature on a short-term plan for bringing these annual operating dollars back to Rutgers, thus ensuring the quality of our educational programs. We also want to work with our elected officials to find ways of providing badly needed funds for our capital facilities – through a bond issue or some other means. Access to quality higher education in New Jersey depends on both kinds of investments.