The upcoming 12-month state budget calls for $2.59 billion to the state’s higher education system, at a time when the pandemic craters revenues for colleges and universities across the board.
Money from parking fees, dining and housing, conferences and events, and athletics has all evaporated because of bans on large gatherings, shifts to remote working and virtual learning, and widespread physical distancing has kept the majority of students and university staff off-campus. Many colleges – like Rutgers University – have resorted to budget cuts like layoffs and furloughs to keep their finances out of the red.
Public college enrollment fell 4% last year, according to a December report from Inside Higher Ed.
Many universities are dependent on federal aid, both under the Trump-era federal COVID-19 relief bill and a proposed $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package under President Joe Biden.
The $2.6 billion proposed this year is an increase of $120 million from the existing fiscal year, which expires on June 30.
There will be $50 million towards a pilot program for the “Garden State Guarantee initiative,” which provides tuition-free education at public four-year universities. The program technically covers just two years and would be complemented by a similar state-run program to cover the costs for a two-year community college degree.
Eligibility is limited to students with an annual household income of up to $65,000. Meanwhile, the Educational Opportunity Fund is getting an added $2.8 million to cover the costs of another 2,147 undergraduate students in their fall and spring semesters, bringing the total financing in 2022.