When Gov. Chris Christie took office 11 months ago, he spoke a lot about shared sacrifice. New Jersey’s $10 billion deficit grows every day and tough choices need to be made to close the fiscal gap, he said. It is understandable that Christie needs to balance the budget, but it is incomprehensible and downright wrong to cut more than $1 billion of state funding to education. Grant money that New Jersey students normally receive has either decreased or disappeared completely. A few weeks ago, I received a letter from the State of New Jersey stating that I will no longer receive the New Jersey Tuition Aid Grant (TAG) as a part of my financial aid package.
Christie’s response to the cuts is that everyone needs to give a little in order to help balance the budget. However, not everyone is suffering. Christie vetoed the millionaire’s tax that would have brought in more than $1 billion of new revenue that could have been used to ease the burden of the already drastic cuts to education. On the campaign trail, Christie spoke about how he values education, but clearly his actions demonstrate that education is not his top priority. We are told to go to college to get an education and make better lives for ourselves, but that is a lot harder now.
The state gives funding to colleges and universities for two reasons: for university operations and to provide financial aid to students. Christie once ignorantly stated that private universities should not receive any money for operational uses because rich students can afford to pay more. I don’t know where Christie got that impression, because a wealthy student at any college or university is hard to find.
Another drastic change that Christie implemented impacts the class of 2014 and beyond. Regardless of whether students attend a public or private institution, they will receive the same amount for TAG. Students used to get more funding if they went to a private institution because the tuition is higher than at a public institution.
Rider has increased the amount of financial aid to students to alleviate the budget cuts. In terms of increased financial aid for me, Rider is trying to see what it can do. My family and I remain unsure of whether I can continue my education at Rider. I may end up transferring to a cheaper institution next year to finish my degree.
I love Rider and I want to be counted as an alumna one day. Any hardworking and willing student should be able to go to the college of his or her choice. It should not be determined by a government official who is so clearly out of touch with average college students and their families.
– Jennie Mugrace
Junior political science major