GLASSBORO Rowan University's president on Wednesday recommended a 1.9 percent increase in undergraduate tuition and fees for the next academic year.
President Ali A. Houshmand told the board of trustees, who ultimately will set the price, that his 2014-15 proposal meets his pledge that increases never exceed the rate of inflation.
"We genuinely wanted to come up with facts and figures before we made the final decision," Houshmand told the trustees and about 15 students who attended a tuition hearing on campus.
"I find the projected increase in price index, based on experts' opinions, hovers between 1.8 and 2 percent . . . and I figure that in order to be fair and just, I need to get an average of the two, so between the two extremes, I've chosen the middle, of 1.9 percent."
Tuition and fees for the academic year currently total $12,380 for in-state students and $20,186 for out-of-state students. A 1.9 percent increase would raise those numbers to $12,615 and $20,570.
The board of trustees is expected to vote on the increase June 11.
Houshmand said the university's costs continue to rise. Faculty and staff salaries, the largest portion of Rowan's operating budget, will increase by about 3.7 percent, he said after the hearing.
"We have all sorts of increases, and nothing stays constant," Houshmand said. The 1.9 percent "comes close" to offsetting those costs, he said. "We are going to have to tighten our belt even further. But this is the minimum."
Rowan received about $137,468,000 in state aid for the 2013-14 fiscal year. Gov. Christie's proposed budget increases that by 3 percent to $141,937,000.
But Houshmand said that the additional funding would go toward rising employee benefits. Direct funding for operations is likely to remain flat, Houshmand said.
The Legislature must pass the state's budget by June 30.
"I wish they had given me 3 percent. I will be happy if they don't cut us," Houshmand said.
Seven students had signed up to speak, venting their frustration at the cost of attending Rowan and asking the trustees to keep tuition and fees from increasing - or roll it back.
"I am super-frustrated at the state of our higher education right now," said Rachel Storch, a junior studying sociology, who said she had to study political science as a minor instead of as a second major because she could not afford a fifth year of college.
"Youth right now are faced with two options. Their first option is to go to school and accrue thousands of dollars of debt trying to get a degree so they can get a job - or risk living in poverty and not getting a job either way," Storch said.
Storch also told the trustees about her freshman-year roommate, who she said had to go home because of a $500 cost increase.
"Any amount of percent that is getting increased is real," she said.
Testimony also came from Teresa Warren, who was unable to attend but provided a statement read aloud by the board secretary.
"Raising tuition and fees again would be detrimental to me," wrote Warren, who described herself as "a single mom going back to school to support my family."
"There are not enough resources for someone like myself, who works and goes to school, who doesn't have someone to cosign a loan for them," she said.