Long after the Great Recession ended, almost all states still have not fully reversed funding cuts for public colleges.

It’s down by 24 percent in New Jersey, compared with 16 percent nationally, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in a new national report out Thursday that draws a direct line between state funding cuts for colleges and increases in tuition over the last decade.

Senior policy analyst Michael Mitchell said New Jersey’s spending on higher education, adjusted for inflation, has dropped by nearly $2,400 per student since 2008. That’s the 13th most in the nation. Average tuition at four-year colleges is up 18 percent in that time.

“For all states, cuts to higher education have been severe, have increased costs for students and jeopardized affordability and in some cases college quality, and particularly along lines of race.”

Tuition last year was equal to 17 percent of median household income in New Jersey. Due to racial inequities in income, that equals 27 percent of the median income for black households, 25 percent for Hispanic ones, 15 percent for white ones and 11 percent for Asian ones.

“The fact that tuition takes up such a large proportion of what their households are earning can present as a huge barrier to being able to access college and access the benefits to having a higher education, to having that higher education credential,” Mitchell said.

Over the last decade and accounting for inflation, the average tuition in New Jersey was up almost $2,100.

Brandon McKoy, director of government and public affairs for New Jersey Policy Perspective, said the shift of the cost of higher education from the state to students began right before the recession a decade ago and pushes the costs onto families already struggling in an expensive state.

“And that’s had a terrible effect on students being able to afford to go to school, having to get loans, average student debt costs going up tremendously,” McKoy said.

McKoy said Gov. Phil Murphy seems interested in spending more on colleges but hasn’t done so yet.

“You expect to see more as time goes on, but even in the first budget, I think all four-year institutions on average got flat funding,” McKoy said. “So they’re still dealing with reduced support from the state. It remains a significant problem for us.”

New Jersey: Decoded cuts through the cruft and gets to what matters in New Jersey news and politics. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded. Follow @NJDecoded on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com

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