By Star-Ledger Editorial Board

Jerry McCrea/The Star Ledger. Gov. Chris Christie
Jerry McCrea/The Star Ledger. Gov. Chris Christie
The words were unambiguous. Gov. Chris Christie, in his budget address, promised a big boost in direct aid to public colleges and universities, reversing a long slide in state support.

“Today, because the people of New Jersey stood strong and had faith over the past two years, I am proud to say this budget proposes a nearly 6 percent increase in direct aid to our senior public colleges and universities,” he said.

Legislators in both parties applauded. And college presidents, after enduring years of deep cuts, began dreaming about hiring faculty to ease the chronic overcrowding in their classrooms, or perhaps fixing a few dilapidated laboratories.
How N.J. ranks nationally

1 Percent of ninth-graders graduating from high school
within four years

1 Net high school graduates attending college

2 Magnitude of tuition and fees charged to state residents attending public colleges as full-time undergraduates

47 Public four-year college enrollment per 1,000 residents

49 Public four-year college capacity per 100 public high school graduates

Source: The Report of the Governor’s Task Force on Higher Education, December 2010

But in the week since then, they have come to a remarkable conclusion: The governor’s statement was simply not true.

“Is it true we are receiving an across-the-board increase in operating budget?” asks George Pruit of Thomas Edison State College. “No, it is not. This is not a matter of spin or opinion, this is just a factual statement.”

At Montclair State University, President Susan Cole agreed.

“Notwithstanding the governor’s statement in his budget address, our analysis of the proposed budget, confirmed by discussions with staff in the Office of Management and Budget, is that there is no increase in direct aid for the senior public colleges and universities,” she said.

This was an accounting trick, nothing more. The governor’s budget would increase spending only on college employees’ benefits, which are established in Trenton.


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