Task force told: N.J. colleges should rethink tuition, aid

Jonathan Lai, Inquirer Staff Writer

TRENTON – New Jersey’s colleges should reconsider the traditional “high aid, high tuition” funding model long in place, a task force on college affordability was told Wednesday.

Steven M. Rose, president of Passaic County Community College, said he believed the funding model had grown unconsciously over time: When the state cut or limited funding, public colleges and universities would raise tuition, and the state money would go toward financial aid instead.

Students from wealthy families can pay full price, Rose said, and students from low-income families can receive financial aid. But the students in the middle can get caught in the gap between being able to afford college and qualifying for need-based financial aid, said Rose, who also is chairman of the New Jersey Presidents’ Council, an organization of the state’s college and university presidents.

“When you look at it, how it works in reality is the fact that, yes, our neediest students are well taken care of, and they’re inoculated from the high tuition. But there’s a huge group of students – and I would argue a growing group of students – that is caught in the middle of this,” Rose told the College Affordability Study Commission, impaneled by the Legislature and given 18 months to offer recommendations.