College education costs are on the rise in New Jersey. Rutgers University is raising in-state tuition and fees 2.5 percent to $13,000, while Richard Stockton College is boosting tuition 3 percent to almost $4,000 plus $1,700 in fees. Richard Stockton College Provost Harvey Kesselman told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that the institution is doing its best to keep costs as low as possible for students, especially in the difficult economic times.
“One of the things that we’ve tried to do at Stockton over the course of the last several years is to have as modest of an increase as possible given the level and sometimes decreased funding we have received,” Kesselmen said. Another step the college has taken to help students defray costs is to institute a strong internal financial aid program.
While Kesselmen said he wishes the tuition hike were less, the reality is it could be worse. “No one enjoys having to increase the tuition and fees. We’ve kept it at 3 percent this year. Wish it could be better, but it’s a relatively modest increase with respect to what had certainly been going on years ago,” he said. “We have a flat rate tuition policy so that students can take even more than the 16 credits they need to take a semester to graduate in four years so that they can hopefully shorten the time it takes for them to acquire their higher education.”
Some have criticized the amount of state funding to colleges and universities, but Kesselman said Gov. Chris Christie has done the best he can by keeping funding level at institutions of higher learning. He sees the most significant problem as a lack of capital bonds to build buildings.
“There’s a capacity issue in New Jersey and we’ve all had to increase our capacity and we’ve done so basically by mortgaging, or debt service it’s called in higher education. We haven’t had a bond issue since 1988,” Kesselman said. “So as a result, if we need more housing or we need a new academic building, it has to be borne through tuition and fees and other types of revenues.”
Even in the current climate, Kesselman said Richard Stockton College has an aggressive building campaign, adding additional housing and academic buildings, including a new science building and a student center for its more than 8,100 students.
“What we’re trying to do is have a very smart growth, an incremental plan as we grow and we’re trying to do it in as cost effective a manner as possible,” Kesselman said. “We’ve been very aggressive in the area of public-private partnerships, which defrays the cost for our students and we’ve been very fortunate to have partners in the private world that are helping with us in enhancing our academic programs and the like.”
According to Kesselman, Richard Stockton College and other colleges and universities have been an economic engine during the downturn since they are the entities building and expanding despite slowdowns for other organizations.
“We’ve not only provided educational opportunity, we’ve been an economic engine for our region,” Kesselman said. “That’s one of the positive unintended consequences about why I think the governor and the legislature want to invest more in higher education.”