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Community colleges in NJ are battling a $20 million cut in state aid

From Camden and Cherry Hill to Trenton and the Jersey Shore, what about life in New Jersey should WHYY News cover? Let us know.

Gov. Phil Murphy plans to cut $20 million in state funding for community colleges. Faculty, university administrators and students say this cut would devastate students and the higher education community.

“That cut will have significant negative impacts on our colleges,” said Dr. Aaron Fichtner, chairman of the New Jersey Council of County Colleges. “Colleges will be forced to raise tuition, cut programs, cut services… our colleges will struggle to make some very difficult decisions that will have real consequences for students.”

As it stands now, state aid should account for one-third of community college funding in the Garden State. Another third should come from the province or provinces the colleges serve. The remainder of the funding must come from student tuition fees.

But Fichtner said, “(New Jersey) has never delivered on these promises,” adding that “tuition now accounts for 55% of the cost of running its colleges.”

This makes state support even more important for the institutions, as they try to keep tuition fees affordable.

New Jersey’s method for financing community colleges is not as complicated as the state’s formula for supporting public schools. It’s a one-line allocation in Gov. Phil Murphy’s budget proposal, which is divided among the state’s 18 community colleges.

Instead of economic factors such as tax revenue and local income, the state formula takes into account the following measures: the number of students enrolled, the number of students enrolled from lower-income populations receiving state and federal aid, the number students from groups that are underrepresented in higher education and the number of students who graduate.

This is in addition to ensuring that smaller institutions receive adequate funding.

“We are proud that our formula is now a performance-based formula,” said Fichtner. “It honors the critical role our colleges play in enrollment, in enrolling adult students, in expanding access to higher education and in helping students graduate.”

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