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Budget Continues to Shrink : Decline of Financial Aid and High School Graduates Takes Their Toll

Boris Niyonzima |Contributing Writer

A decrease in tuition revenue over the past three years at BCC has resulted in a smaller fiscal budget every year. The budget has shrunk by approximately $4.5 million since the 2017-2018 year. BCC is projecting that the upcoming fiscal year will have a budget of $153,927,218. These facts were revealed at a budget meeting in March.

College President, Michael Redmond, and Melvis Ventura, President of the Student Government Association (SGA), attended the meeting along with several heads of departments from throughout the school. The presentation was led by Victor Anaya, Executive Director of Finance.

Redmond and Anaya were in agreement that a downturn in tuition revenue is part of a national trend.

The reasons for a revenue drop range from national trends to New Jersey and Bergen County specifically. Nationwide, there has been a decline in community college attendance due to a stronger economy. There are more people at work and less people seeking out new skills that community colleges provide. 

In Bergen County, there has been a decline in high school graduates, which has naturally led to a decline in college attendance. Over the past 40 years, there has been a steady decline in state and county financial aid. State aid has dropped from 30.5 percent to 11.7 percent, and county aid has dropped to 20.5 percent from 39.8 percent. A combination of all of these patterns has led to a smaller budget.

The administration has proposed a couple of solutions to ameliorate the loss in revenue. The new budget proposes a slight 1.5 percent increase in tuition– a two dollar increase for in-county tuition and a four dollar increase for out-of-state and out-of-county students. 

Redmond has pledged before and during the hearing that the school will continue to aggressively lobby for community college assistance from the state and county legislatures. His lobbying efforts have already led to an estimated one percent increase in support from the county for the 2020 fiscal year.

BCC is also planning to discontinue the add/drop and reinstatement fee for the 2019 Fall semester. The benefits of removing these fees are to streamline the registration process, improve general customer service and an overall reduction in out-of-pocket expenses for students. 

Instead, they are proposing a rate increase in almost all other fees by 1.5 percent and an added ten dollar increase in the excess contact hour fee. Since BCC students pay per credit and faculty is paid by contact hours, this fee was created to offset the lost revenue from the difference in hours and credits.

Not included in the budget is the largest upcoming project that BCC is working on. The college is building a Culinary Arts building at the Hackensack campus for $14.7 million. All the funding for the project is covered by Chapter 12 funding, the New Jersey Capital Investment Fund for Higher Education, and is expected to be open in two years.

The administration also hopes to gain money from federal aid and Pell grants. According to the Schedule of Expenditures of Federal Awards (SEPA) report, prospective and current students are not completing the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA), leading to a loss in potential revenue for all colleges. 

BCC administration plans to engage in financial aid education and workshops to ensure that students receive as much aid as possible. Students will benefit from a lighter bill, and the school can report a higher revenue as less students rely on in-state aid to cover their tuition.

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