Third increase in as many years
Students will pay $3 more per credit for the 2018-19 school year. Photo by: Arianna Parks
By: Brett Friedensohn
Students at County College of Morris will pay three more dollars per credit starting with the summer semester thanks to a hike approved by the Board of Trustees at its meeting Tuesday, Jan. 16.
Starting in summer, tuition for Morris County residents will rise from $125 to $128 per credit, but the college fee will stay at $29, making the total cost per credit $157.
Students who live outside the county pay a differential fee of 100 percent of the in-county tuition; therefore, they will pay $285 per credit. Out-of-state students’ differential fee will be $238, making their total cost per credit $395.
Tuition hikes have been recently common at CCM because of flat funding from Morris County and the state of New Jersey, according to Vice President of Business and Finance Karen VanDerhoof, who said that the approximate $7 million granted by the state and $11 million granted by the county for the 2017-18 school year has covered around one third of the college’s costs, leaving the other two thirds to be paid by the students. For comparison, CCM received $13 million from the county and $9 million from the state for the 2007-08 school year.
In Jan. 2017, the board approved a total tuition hike of $4 per credit for in-state students and $6 for out-of-county students. In Jan. 2016, the board approved a $2 per credit tuition hike.
Budget and Compliance Director John Young recommended the price hike to the Board of Trustees who voted unanimously in favor of his proposal.
Young said during the meeting that most of the college’s costs are used for salary and benefits of personnel.
“The increase will allow the college to maintain and enhance the quality of education and breadth of programs currently offered to students,” Vanderhoof said over email. “The administration recommends the budget parameters to the Finance and Budget Committee of the Board of Trustees. The committee can request revisions be made to the parameters and then gives the administration authorization to develop the budget. Each division receives an allocation and determines how to distribute the funds to their departments. Each department builds their budget based on their needs and priorities. They must also indicate how they are supporting the college’s strategic plan. Completed budgets are returned to the director of budget and compliance for review and compilation. The budget is the submitted to the finance and budget committee. Once approved by the committee it is then presented to the full board for approval.”
When New Jersey began opening community colleges around the 1960s, the state intended for each college to be paid for in even thirds by its county, the state, and the students, according to the New Jersey Council of Community Colleges.
Young said after last year’s hike that the idea “never came to fruition” because of the flat funding.
After last year’s hike, President Dr. Anthony Iacono and Vice President of Student Development and Enrollment Management Dr. Bette Simmons said that gradual increases over time rather than drastic, sudden increases are preferable for the students’ sake. Iacono said that in the event of a drastic increase of funding at the state and county levels, the college will probably decrease tuition.
During his gubernatorial campaign, current New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy promised in September that if elected, he will ensure that all state community colleges are free of tuition, according to New Jersey Advance Media. A Murphy spokesman said that this would cost $200 million at the most. VanDerhoof said that she does not know if such an idea is feasible.
“I know he’s very serious about it,” VanDerhoof said. “How he’s going to do it we haven’t seen, and whether or not it’s doable from the state budget side of the house is yet to be seen, so we’ll keep our eyes open on it and see how it would impact us and the students.”
VanDerhoof said that she does not know what impact such a move would make on enrollment.
“It depends on how it’s done,” VanDerhoof said. “A lot of states have what they call free tuition, but the free tuition is as a last resort, like New York, there’s income criteria. Students still have to file for financial aid, and then, if there’s an on-net gap, that becomes the free piece, so it all depends on how it’s regulated or legislated, and then, we can assess it.”
Last fall semester, New York community colleges began granting financial aid to students whose households earned less than $100 thousand, according to NJ Advance Media. However, Tennessee covers free community college for all adult residents.
Liberal arts major Austin Smith said that she did not know about the tuition hike and that CCM should have made the move more transparent and that a mass email would have helped.
“I think the whole point of coming to school here is to be saving money in order to fund later institutional things, so that’s why I come here, to save money,” Smith said. “And I pay my own tuition, so not knowing that that was even happening this summer, it’s kind of a little absurd because they should be as transparent as possible with money and with our futures because that can make or break someone who is going to go to college or if they want to stay in college, too.”
However, mechanical engineering technology major Joshua Heinerch said that the burden of paying for colleges should not fall on taxpayers who do not use the college directly.
“I think it’s better because now, the people who are actually going to be paying more of it instead of people who aren’t, like the state or the government, paying for it,” Heinerch said.
After last year’s hike, Iacono said that while he respects the county freeholders’ priorities, he believes that government-funded tuition results in a more educated workforce, which in turn, benefits the community in general.
“It’s a difference in philosophy: Do you see education as an expense, or do you see it as an investment?” Iacono said. “I see it as the best investment you could possibly make.”