Spadea — Hey Rutgers, we want our billion back
On Tuesday I talked about the mess that is Rutgers University, specifically President Bob Barchi's overpaid incompetence and ignorance. The conversation about the minimum wage hike for student employees got me thinking about how Rutgers is spending their money and how much money the taxpayers in New Jersey provide.
Turns out quite a bit. As a matter of fact, the university budget is $4.4 billion with a taxpayer contribution of 24 percent.
How does a University charging in-state students among the highest tuition in the country for state schools justify such a huge taxpayer contribution? The tuition cost plus room and board is more than $25,000 a year for New Jersey residents.
Here's my thought on a plan that will help New Jersey and force Rutgers to make changes to live within a budget from tuition and fees instead of on the backs of hard working middle class New Jersey families.
The first action that the new governor could take is to reduce the state contribution to $1. There is no reason to privatize the university if we can dramatically reduce our cost, but maintain the power of the NJ governor to hire and fire school leaders.
Then take the $1 billion from Rutgers current funding and reallocate the money to where it is needed in the state budget. The first place would be to spend $700 million to sure up the public workers and teachers pension plans. Right now, those plans are underfunded and you really can't expect public employees to pay more into a system that at current rates, will not be around to actually pay for their retirement as promised.
The remaining $300 million from the former Rutgers subsidy would be allocated to fund Governor-elect Murphy's "Free Community College Tuition" plan. Any students unable to get to Rutgers because of school cuts resulting from the loss of state money could easily be educated for free in one of our many excellent schools around the state.
Perhaps the Governor-elects plan could include some other terrific universities for those in need. Rider, TCNJ, Monmouth University, Kean, FDU and, of course, trade schools come to mind. For me, this has to be a solid investment of taxpayer dollars. So for every semester free a student receives, they would commit to one year of living and working in the Garden State. The penalty for leaving early would be the expected taxes that would have been generated.
Then there's the issue of the expected $50 million a year from the school's cut of the Big Ten revenue. First, it's done nothing to offset the taxpayer burden, but beyond that, how about spending some of that money on bringing back the varsity programs that were cut to make room for football?
I'm a big fan of the students (not the protesters over the wage though) at Rutgers. Many of these young people will be the best and brightest to enter the NJ workforce in the future. Part of this is personal to me. Back in 2004, when I was running for United States Congress, most of my regular volunteers "Red Shirts" were Rutgers students giving up their weekends to help.
Our affinity for this iconic NJ institution aside, we're doing a huge disservice to other NJ schools and the general budget throwing way more than a billion dollars and tolerating the highest paid state workers in the country. Millions in salaries to football and basketball coaches and nearly a million to the school president. It's an outrageous set up that clearly caters to the wealthy at the expense of the middle and working class.
It's time to change that. Hey Rutgers, #WeWantOurBillionBack
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