POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Higher education institutions testify before Assembly Budget Committee

Six college and university presidents testified before the Assembly Budget Committee Wednesday to discuss higher education funding in Gov. Murphy’s proposed FY 2020 budget.

Currently, the state spends $1.6 billion on higher education and Murphy would increase that by 2.6%. He would add $33 million for his free community college initiative, for a total of $58 million, and $14 million for four-year public colleges.

Montclair State University President Susan Cole was critical of Murphy’s budget, saying that what he set aside was insufficient.

“We’re really talking, all told, about $14 million spread over 13 campuses — 13 four-year campuses, public four-year campuses in the state. So while I’m grateful for the small amount of money that came that way, truly I am, and for the effort behind it, it’s not enough,” Cole said.

However, higher education Secretary Zakiya Smith Ellis defended the budget.

“This budget supports college affordability, enhances socioeconomic mobility and strengthens the talent pipeline that fuels our state’s economy,” Smith Ellis said.

From the tenor of the hearing, the state’s higher education system appears to be in pretty good shape. There were many appeals from the presidents for more funding, but no one’s institution is in serious financial distress.