Moody's Weekly Credit Outlook is a bit concerned about the debt load at New Jersey's public colleges.
In the July 5 Moody's Weekly Credit Outlook, the company cites cuts in state aid and the 4 percent tuition cap as "credit negatives" for the state colleges.
The colleges' ratings are all still good and there are no immediate plans to lower them. All have A ratings except for the University of Medicine and Dentistry which has a Baa1. But the report said the colleges are under greater pressure from the debt they have take on to fund expansion without the benefit of state assistance.
As has been previously reported in The Press, the state colleges have more than $4 billion in construction debt. The Moody's report cited Rutgers with the most debt at $864 million and UMDNJ second $683 million. Locally Stockton has $219 million in debt and Rowan has $348 million.
Tuition caps have helped control costs, but facilities fees have continued to creep up as students become the primary source of funding to repay the construction debt. State aid now accounts for about 30 percent of the cost of attending a state college, down from 40 percent in 2002. Student tuition and fees make up 54 percent of the costs, compared with 40 percent at public colleges nationally.
Still, while no one wants higher tuition and fees, students do want the services they provide. The colleges will have to find creative ways to reduce expenses or generate new revenue.