By Alex Meier / Associate News Editor | 0 comments

Eighty percent of Rutgers students receive state or federal aid, a statistic that spurred a conversation about the affordability of higher education at last night’s Rutgers University Student Assembly meeting in the Student Activities Center on the College Avenue campus.

Justin Habler, legislative and governing affairs chair for New Jersey United Students, and Marios Athanasiou, president of New Jersey United Students, presented NJUS’s Higher State Appropriates Campaign. The campaign focuses on urging the state of New Jersey to allocate more funding to higher education.

Gov. Chris Christie drafts New Jersey’s budget, several state committees draft their own budget bills, and the final version of the bill needs to be ratified by state legislative bodies. NJUS plans to draft their own version of the bill.

Habler, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said in terms of funding for higher education, New Jersey places 48th out of the 50 states. Yet according to an NJUS research study, New Jersey has a $1.5 billion surplus in its budget, money that can easily be reinvested in higher education.

“The way we see it, higher education is not just philosophically the right thing to invest in — it is financially the right thing to invest in,” he said. “It actually would end up increasing the state revenue as well.”

Habler said he believes student involvement can make this change happen, and cited NJUS’s success in campaigning for the In-State Tuition Act as a testament to student power.

“The best advocates for any issue are the people affected by it,” he said.

After the presentation, RUSA voted to approve a bill to begin a campaign for higher state appropriations for higher education in New Jersey. This mandates that RUSA commit to advocating, researching, publicizing and providing funding for the cause.

Yet Alexander Uematsu, a Livingston campus representative who presented the bill, said these funds must ensure an accessible and affordable education for all New Jerseyans. Therefore, RUSA plans to campaign to institute a tuition freeze at Rutgers and across the state.


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