Rutgers sticking it to students… again

 (Cartoon by Rob Tornoe)

(Cartoon by Rob Tornoe)

Starting next year, a student a Rutgers University’s College of Arts and Science at New Brunswick, who is on the most popular meal and housing plan, will have to shell out $25,007 for a single year. Keep in mind – Rutgers is a state university.

Memo to all Republicans spouting nonsense on cable news- you may have been able to work a part-time job to help pay for college, but as long as you’re allowing student loan rates to double and voting against minimum wage increases, it’s simply not possible for today’s generation of students to do the same.

And the problem is only getting worse.

In the case of Rutgers, in-state tuition has doubled since 2001, when annual tuition and fees totaled $6,654. But fear not potential students – not a dime of your tuition hikes will be contributing to the $2 million in payouts going to officials who resigned or were fired in the scandal involving abusive coach Mike Rice.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Nor will any of the increase go towards the recent takeover of University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, which Rutgers is expected to absorb to the tune of $76 million.

According to Nancy Winterbauer, Rutgers’ vice president for university budgeting, all the fees are going towards teacher salary increases, and the rest will be used as “seed money” as the school undergoes a “strategic planning initiative.” I wonder if the $102 million borrowed to pay for the expansion of Rutgers’ football stadium would fall under the “strategic planning” moniker. 

Does all this sound like nonsense to you? Well, it did to the largest faculty union at Rutgers, who issued a statement disagreeing with the tuition hikes and claimed that faculty and staff salaries don’t account for any proposed tuition and fee hikes.

“To increase tuition by 3.5 percent and fees by another 2.5 percent adds insult to injury for our students already struggling with mounting student debt and our faculty and staff struggling to maintain a decent standard of living,” the statement from the Rutgers chapter of the American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers said.

It’s not just states like New Jersey that are sticking it to students. Congress couldn’t get their act together, and allowed student loan interest rates to double at the beginning of the month. Even worse, the government actually profits off the backs of the 77 million or so student loan borrowers, to the tune of $51 billion a year. 

Maybe we can all hope that student loan debt, which just topped $1 trillion nationally, will achieve “too big to fail” status. Unfortunately, as far as our legislators go, doing something about student loan debt ranks far beneath closing Planned Parenthood clinics and voting to repeal Obamacare, which House Republicans have done 39 times.

To put today’s government ineptitude into perspective, back in 1987, the limits on government-subsidized loans was $2,625 a year for freshmen and $4,000 for seniors, which in most cases covered the cost of tuition at an in-state school like Rutgers. Today, the cap for seniors is $9,500, not even close to covering tuition at state schools where rates have tripled. And the numbers get worse if you go to a private or out-of-state school.

Sadly, this shortsighted approach to higher education stymies our economy. Young workers can no longer afford to buy a house or a new car with the student loans they’re carrying on their backs. And specialists like doctors and lawyers graduate in some cases with six-figure loans, resulting in higher fees and costs to consumers along all walks of life. 

Fear not Rutgers students, your protests against student rate hikes have been heard loud and clear. During debate on the increases, Ralph Izzo, who just stepped down the chair of Rutgers’ governing board, moved to remove the term “modest” from the resolution approving the tuition increase.

It’s become inevitable that nothing can or will be done to help students facing ever-increasing tuition rates and a lifetime of debt. The best policymakers and politicians can do is debate the best adjective for “screwed.”  


Rob Tornoe is a political cartoonist and a WHYY contributor. See more of his work at, and follow him on twitter @RobTornoe.

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal