Richard Stockton College's decision to have no tuition increase this year was good news for students. But the decision also affected the college's budget, which will be about 1.5 percent lower this fiscal year.
Stockton's approved 2013-14 operating budget of $144.8 million is $2 million lower than the $146.8 million budget for 2012-13, even with the opening of a new science building and contractual raises for faculty and staff.
Charles Ingram, vice president for administration and finance, said the cuts were possible because of a "perfect storm" of events that allowed for monetary savings without affecting student services. Both he and President Herman J. Saatkamp warned the same circumstances are unlikely to repeat next year.
"These are largely one-time savings," Ingram said.
A review of the budget by The Press of Atlantic City shows the students themselves are a large part of the reason there is no tuition increase.
More students have enrolled, both as freshmen and transfers, which has increased tuition revenue, sometimes more than anticipated. Graduate program enrollment has steadily increased, bringing total enrollment to 8,400 in fall 2012, up from 7,307 in fall 2008.
"As volume is growing, so tuition revenue is also growing," Ingram said in a meeting with The Press to discuss the budget.
Two years ago, undergraduate tuition alone raised $52.6 million. Last year, it raised $55.2 million, and for 2013-14, it is expected to raise $56.7 million. Revenue from student fees increased proportionally. Tuition and fees from students make up about $84 million of the fiscal 2014 budget.
Ingram said a 1 percent increase in tuition and fees raises about $900,000. The college could have increased tuition and fees by 2 percent to stay about even with the previous budget, but officials decided they could use the savings to instead keep tuition flat.
"We looked at the number and said, 'We can do that,'" Ingram said.
While tuition and fees for 2013-14 will remain $12,322 for a full-time, in-state undergraduate student, increases in previous years generated additional funds toward a surplus.
The college's operating budget took a huge leap in 2012-13 from $132.5 million to $146.7 million, or almost 11 percent, fueled primarily by student funds and about $13 million in fund balance, or surplus carried over from the previous year. An additional $7.5 million in fund balance is included in the FY14 budget.
Stockton receives $19.8 million in state aid, an amount that has shrunk from $24.8 million five years ago. The state also provides almost $25 million in state-negotiated fringe benefit costs for employees, with the college paying an additional $1.8 million needed to cover all 1,100 full-time employees.
An additional $4 million comes from income on investments.
Ingram said the college was able to save money in 2012-13 because 13 positions that were budgeted were not all filled right away. The college has been adding faculty and staff to meet enrollment growth, but not all get hired in time to be paid for a full year.
"It takes time to add or replace people," Ingram said. The budget shows an estimated $1.5 million in anticipated salary savings.
He said energy efficiencies, such as the solar panel parking lots, have stabilized utility costs even as the college has expanded.
Outside the operating budget, the college has planned about $8 million in capital projects that are being funded with existing bond and reserve funds. They include about $1.75 million for student housing upgrades, such as roof replacements, $400,000 for Pinelands remediation projects, $500,000 for possible land acquisitions and $1.8 million for the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club.
Ingram said the Seaview is generating a profit, and the college is investing those and other funds in upgrades that will include $1 million to renovate the ballrooms and meeting space, $400,000 for ventilation projects in the Bay wing and $200,000 for golf projects.
The projected Seaview budget includes about $773,000 toward those upgrades. Ingram said the plan is to ultimately put some of the Seaview proceeds toward student scholarships.
Almost 86 percent of full-time Stockton undergraduates received financial aid in FY13, up from 78 percent in FY13. That aid includes federal and state grants and loans. The college's operating budget includes $12.4 million in student financial aid, with almost $10.2 million of it awarded as scholarships and the rest as matching funds to other financial aid programs.
In his comments following the approval of the tuition and budget in July, Saatkamp said school officials recognize the struggles families and students face paying for college and will continue to work to keep Stockton affordable.
Rowan University in Glassboro and Stockton were the only two public colleges in the state that did not raise tuition for 2013-14.
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