promoted by Rosi
As originally envisioned, community colleges in New Jersey were to be funded in equal parts by the counties they serve, the State of New Jersey and students through tuition. Community colleges in New Jersey operate under an open enrollment system. Because of their relative affordability, enrollment at community colleges has skyrocketed. The Great Recession, of course, has further created a market where many are choosing to attend community colleges. At Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC) in Branchburg, where I teach criminal law and criminal justice, enrollment is at an all-time high.
Despite this, college trustees closed a projected $3 million budget shortfall for the coming fiscal year with a tuition increase of $15 a credit. According to President Casey Crabill, for a full-time student the increase will be $450 per year. The approved budget also reflected a restructuring of administrative functions which resulted in a number of staff layoffs and reclassifications, a reduction in the equivalent of twelve full-time positions.
One of the reasons for the budget shortfall is the substantial reduction in college funding by Somerset and Hunterdon counties. This proportion of two-thirds public funding and one-third student tuition clearly reflected the founding vision that New Jersey’s public county colleges be primarily supported with public funds and only supplemented by tuition dollars.
However, the long-term neglect in funding by the state, the recent cut in public funding by the counties, and the simultaneous increase in student tuition under the approved budget now brings the projected funding for RVCC to the following proportions:
Tuition and fees 60.8%
State of New Jersey 11.9%
Somerset and Hunterdon Counties 26.7%
Other (investments, rentals, etc.) .6%
At a recent general membership meeting, the Faculty Federation of Raritan Valley Community College (American Federation of Teachers Local 2375) strongly condemned this gross imbalance in the sources of funding for the college. As the AFT state delegate at RVCC, I join my colleagues in calling for a rejection of policies which further shift the burden of supporting public education onto the shoulders of our students. In addition, we express support for our colleagues that are losing their jobs as a result of the college’s budget woes. We call on public officials at both the county and the state level to restore essential public funding for our public institution and we look forward to a return to the originally envisioned balance of funding which recognized that public education is truly a public good.