The FY 2024 state budget that was approved in late June addresses many of the core priorities that ICUNJ had been advocating to the Murphy Administration and the Legislature since last December. – – including efforts to make attending college in New Jersey even more affordable for students and their families.
The $6 million increase in direct funding to the thirteen ICUNJ institutions, as well as the increased commitment to students through the Tuition Aid Grant program (TAG) reflect the recognition that independent colleges and universities are a critical component of the higher education community.
New Jersey is one of the few states that provide direct unrestricted operating aid to non-profit independent colleges and universities and the FY 2024 budget will provide $16.5 million directly to the thirteen ICUNJ members. This amount represents a return to the level provided fourteen years ago and reflects a significant ramp up over the last three years. ICUNJ institutions will have an average increase of approximately 70% in the upcoming year which will allow them to offset at least a portion of the unprecedented inflationary increases in goods and services and the anticipated demand for salary increases, while minimizing increases in tuition.
We thank the Governor and the legislature for the original $2 million increase recommended in February and the additional $4 million that was included in the final budget. Reaching the statutory funding level of approximately $23 million is now in sight when four years ago the state was providing less than 10% of the amount.
New Jersey has long been a leader in providing state financial aid to lower income students and has traditionally provided significant levels of support to students that choose to attend an independent college or university. Our lawmakers clearly understand the importance of providing choice to students, especially to those seeking a learning environment in a smaller classroom setting. See related article: Class Size Matters When it Comes to Learning and Thriving in College Today.
Since last Fall, a high priority of ICUNJ advocacy efforts has been to push for changes that would align our state TAG program with the federal Pell Grant program to provide TAG awards to students for courses taken during the “Summer 2023” term. This expansion will result in earlier degree completion, resulting in significantly less cost and debt for students and their families.
This Spring, the legislature and the Governor took the first step and authorized Summer TAG for the current summer courses in March and the final budget includes the authorization for TAG awards for the Summer 2024 sessions. Students will now know that TAG will be available in the Summer 2024 and can plan their course load accordingly. Our next goal on this issue will be to make this program permanent. If successful, this will have a material impact on our efforts to make the goal of obtaining a degree from our exceptional universities a reality for students who might not otherwise have that opportunity.
The FY 2024 budget continues the financial commitment to students with $498 million in funding, this represented an increase of $15 million. The Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA) adopted a TAG award table that used these increased funds to increase the award for the students with the lowest income by 6%. Approximately 4,800 students enrolled at ICUNJ institutions would receive this 6% increase – these students will receive an award of $14,404 up from the current $13,590 in AY 2022-23. IUCNJ institutions would receive approximately $4 million in added TAG payments based on this increase assuming a similar number of these lowest income students are enrolled.
Again, ICUNJ thanks the Governor and the Legislature, including the leadership of Senate President Scutari, Assembly Speaker Coughlin, Senate Majority Leader Ruiz, Assembly Majority Leader Greenwald, Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee Chairman Sarlo and Assembly Budget Committee Chairwoman Pintor-Marin for their leadership in supporting these funding initiatives. We also thank the numerous legislators that advocated for these programs as well and ICUNJ looks forward to continuing to work with our state lawmakers in making attending college at our universities even more affordable to those students in our state.