The New Jersey Commission on Higher Education reports tuition at state colleges and universities has gone up an average 20 percent in five years. And in many cases the four-year graduation rate is now less than 20 percent. Now the Assembly’s Higher Education Committee has released a tuition reform package of 20 bills, the cornerstone of which is designed to cut the spiraling cost of college. It would require four-year colleges and universities to guarantee each incoming freshman fixed tuition and fees for nine semesters. Bill co-sponsor and Assemblyman Joseph Cryan told NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams that higher education has become unaffordable.
“The reality is that tuition has gone up and many colleges and universities around the country and around the state of New Jersey, 200 to 300 percent over the past three decades,” said Cryan. “It has spiraled out of control and I do think there needs to be some costs considerations in a way to handle those costs.”
Cryan said the tuition freeze bill would guarantee that students going into colleges and universities as incoming freshmen would have the opportunity to pay the same tuition fees for nine semesters. He said that would allow for stability in costs. Over the last six years, tuition and fees around the state have increased about 23 percent, according to Cryan.
With the tuition freeze bill, Cryan said the average four-year public college and university student would save about $10,000. Cryan said that it would include other components of college, such as books, room and board and costs of meals.
As for the graduation rate in New Jersey, Cryan says that about 40 percent of students graduate in four years between 11 public colleges and universities in the state. Out of the 11, about eight have a graduation rate of 40 percent or less. Cryan pointed out that New Jersey City University has a graduation rate of 7 percent and Kean University has 19 percent of students graduate in four years.
College officials have been pushing the tuition freeze bill saying that state funding for state colleges and universities has dropped steadily and that it is an inopportune time to cut funding. Cryan said that he does not buy the argument and that data shows that when colleges and universities received money from the state, tuition had gone up in double digits.
Cryan also said that the bill would require college and university presidents to provide the legislature with their forecasts for the next four years in terms of their budget requirements.
States such as Florida, Illinois and Texas have implemented tuition freezes or lock policies. Cryan said in some cases, the tuition freezes have worked well and that there is evidence that shows that families have saved money.
“Here in New Jersey the classic example for that is the College of New Jersey, which has the highest outside of Princeton. Seventy-two percent of the students graduate in four years. But we have to look at the other part of the pyramid,” said Cryan. “New Jersey City University graduates less than a third of its students in six years. Yet eight out of 10 of those students go into some sort of debt. Our numbers show that over 33,000 students in the past six years have gone into the higher education opportunities and yet left without a degree and into student debt. We think that is unacceptable.”