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Rutgers Budget Woes Felt Across the Board

Budget constraints have forced Rutgers University, the largest public research university in New Jersey, to cancel 451 classes, increase tuition, layoff 185 employees and cut several programs, including minority recruitment programs. However, planning for a new series of general education requirements with courses involving diversity will continue.

More than 50,000 students who attend the university’s three campuses in Camden, Newark and New Brunswick/Piscataway are faced with an 8 percent increase in tuition for the second consecutive year.

The tuition increase and program cuts are a result of the state budget signed by recently elected Gov. Jon S. Corzine in July. New Jersey faces a $4 billion deficit, and higher education will share the pain with a $30 million decrease in its $2.11 billion budget for 2007, says Mark Perkiss, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Treasury. Rutgers is already adjusting to a $66.1 million shortfall this year as a result of the state’s budget problems.

To compensate for the loss, the university implemented a combination of budget cuts and program reductions, which are expected to save approximately $50 million, says Rutgers spokesman E.J. Miranda. Final decisions about which courses to cut were made at the departmental level. School officials first combined courses with multiple sections, creating fewer but larger classes.

Rutgers faculty members are adjusting to the larger classes by teaching more introductory classes online, says Dr. Jeffrey I. Rubin, professor of economics and director of undergraduate studies in economics at the New Brunswick campus.

While officials did not cut any courses specific to Douglass College, the university’s women’s college, the school’s dean, Carmen Twillie Ambar, says the entire student population was affected. “Any general cuts made to courses affect all students in getting the courses that they need,” she says. Ambar, who is beginning her fifth year as dean of Douglass, says she’s witnessed budget cuts every school year. But the cuts this year are the most substantial, she says.

As a result of the cuts, Douglass has reduced its student affairs, women and science programs and women and minority recruitment programs. “Both the breadth and depth of the programs and the number of programs will be reduced,” Ambar says.

The cuts to Douglass’ minority recruitment programs are forcing college officials to come up with new ways to ensure a diverse student experience. Currently, 37 percent of Douglass’ 3,000 students are minorities.

“We’ll just have to rethink how we do it,” Ambar says. “Hopefully, we can do it in a way to recruit a diverse group of students to experience Douglass College.”

The complete version of this story can be found in the Oct. 5 edition of Diverse.

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