Tuition at the state’s public colleges will increase more than 3 percent, or about $400, in 2012-13 for full-time undergraduate students from New Jersey.

That is less than the average 4 percent increase in 2011-12. The colleges are also putting more money into scholarships and financial aid to supplement federal and state aid and reduce the cost.

On average it will cost almost $12,400 in tuition and required fees to attend a state public college in the fall, although costs vary by thousands of dollars. Room and board costs also vary, but typically add an additional $10,000 to $12,000 per year to the total cost.

The smallest increase is 2 percent at William Paterson college, or about $230. The largest increase is at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, at just more than 5 percent, or $766.

Both Richard Stockton College and Rowan University came in at 3 percent, or about an additional $360 per year. College officials said they recognized that times are still tough for many families and have worked to control costs.

State aid to the colleges increased about 6 percent this year, but the extra funds were allocated to employee benefits and not direct college operations.

The state also has a tentative contract agreement with college faculty unions that includes no salary increase for 2011 and 2012, and a 1 percent increase in 2013 that will help control costs. Faculty will still get contracted “step” salary increases.

The New Jersey Institute of Technology, or NJIT, is the most expensive state college at $14,740. College officials said the concentration of specialized laboratories and facilities on campus adds to cost. One percent of the 2012 tuition increase this year is dedicated to funding necessary physical plant projects.

Construction costs have driven up the cost at state colleges. Voters will get to decide in November if they will approve a $750 million bond referendum to help fund construction projects at all of the state’s public and private colleges. Students are currently funding projects through facilities fees as high as $1,000 a year.

Sheryl Weinstein, spokesperson for NJIT, said while their costs are higher, they promote the $18.4 million in financial aid that is available to undergraduate students. Students accepted to the Honors College can receive free tuition.

“We try to get the word out, to not discourage anyone from applying” Weinstein said. The average financial aid package is about $18,000.

The College of New Jersey will have a more than 3 percent increase, and at $14,378 is the costliest of the smaller state colleges. It is also among the most selective.

TCNJ officials said the college remains a great value, citing its listings in publications such as the Princeton Review. College spokesman Matthew Golden said in a statement that students benefit from small classes and an aggressive undergraduate research program. He said they also have one of the best graduation rates in the country, which reduces student costs. College data show that about 70 percent of students graduate in four years, and almost 85 percent graduate within five years.

Kean University will have a 4 percent tuition increase, but is still the most affordable state college at $10,600 for the year.

Kean was put on probation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, and is working on retaining its accreditation. Officials there said maintaining affordability is still a priority as part of its mission of access and opportunity for a diverse student body.

This is the second year that William Paterson has limited its increase to 2 percent. Vice president for student development John Martone said when tuition was approved last month that they are sensitive to the cost of college.

“We know that our students often struggle to pay for college and we will continue to look for ways to be more efficient so we can pass those savings to our students,” he said.

Part of the increased cost is being used to help pay for more financial aid.

TCNJ will increase financial aid by 6 percent to $14.6 million. Stockton College has budgeted $12.7 million.

Rutgers increased its Assistance Grant budget $2.4 million to $27.5 million, with 61 percent of undergraduates getting need-based grants last year, according to information provided by the college.

State colleges still remain far less costly than private colleges, though they also discount tuition with financial aid packages. Tuition and fees at Seton Hall for 2012-13 will cost $18,400. Princeton’s posted cost is $38,650.

Contact Diane D'Amico:

609-272-7241