Friday, July 18, 2008

Rutgers - The State University You Can't Afford ... and this George Zoffinger guy, again.

Following Thursday's Board of Governors meeting, tuition at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, is set to increase, again. The new tuition cost is being reported by at $21,482 for New Jersey residents, I didn't go look at the cost per credit which is the important number in my opinion - guestimating just 12 credits per semester and two semesters, that is $895/credit which seems insane - even at 15 credits per semester by two semesters - $716 per credit - I thought I paid about $150ish or so per credit back in the day when I graduated from Rutgers in '02 so hopefully my calculations are wrong in some way. These costs don't seem to include books and other expenses so I'm guessing it's closer to $30,000 per year to go to college. In any case, even at the $21,000 number, Rutgers has apparently become one of the most expensive public colleges in the nation - no surprise since New Jersey is one of the most expensive places to live, go figure.

Tuition aside, this article caught my attention for another reason aside from the cost of tuition. That name "George Zoffinger" is familiar to me. When I pass the "DANGER" signs at the local park, I associate them with pollution from Monmouth Park. Incidentally, George Zoffinger was the NJSEA CEO and the NJSEA operates Monmouth Park. How ironic that the guy who runs an organization that pollutes a federal waterway is also the guy on the Board of Govenors for Rutgers, a university that includes Cook College, also know as the hippie environmentalist school (yes, I graduated from RU/Cook College with my CS degree). Incidentally, the University Board didn't seem to want Mr. Zoffinger but he was given the job anyway. I suppose political connections go a long way. Mr. Zoffinger never got around to cleaning up the mess he was responsible for in the Branchport Creek - I doubt he'll ever get around to cleaning up the mess that is college tuition at Rutgers.

Prior to becoming a board member at Rutgers, Mr. Zoffinger swore there would be no conflicts on interest with his other business in front of students. However, a little research would show that Mr. Zoffinger also swore there was no conflict of interest with his son's law firm, a conflict of interest that cost him his position as CEO of the NJSEA. Imagine that, resigning from appointed high paying position to move on to another appointed (I mean elected, yeah right) position.

I don't know much about this Mr. Zoffinger fella, but it seems that every time I read bad news for New Jersey, his name seems to get a mention in some way. Tuition has increased over 6% in back to back years and seems to be at least double, if not quadruple, the cost in the past 10 years. At the same time, gas prices have quadrupled in the past 10 years. The Rutgers Board of Governors cites rising fuel and operation costs for the tuition increase, but where is the increase in pay for New Jersey residents? The decrease in property taxes? How is some 17 year old making $5.25/hr at Burger King or the like going to afford the tuition and the gallon of gas to sit in traffic on Rt 1 or Rt 18 to get to Rutgers for class? In fact, a student would have to work the better part of a day just to afford to drive across campus, never mind afford to pay for a class once they got there. Even if a student stays on campus, how is a student to afford on campus housing? And we can't expect families to help their children out with tuition and fuel expenses as family budgets are already drained through increased fuel and food prices, increased property taxes, the 7% sales tax, etc. Of course I'm sure there are plenty of student loans available, and just like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, I'm sure those federal agencies are soon to go broke as well, but don't sweat it, Mr. Zoffinger appears to be a wealthy banker - maybe his bank can get you a loan? I'm sure with today's high interest rates, you'll be able to pay that college tuition cost back in 20-30 years - in the meantime, you can buy (un)Affordable Housing in New Jersey and pay that back for the next 30 years as well, good luck.

There seems to be some interesting information about Mr. Zoffinger available if you care to search around and it seems like he might have some interesting ideas (and in fact a summer home here in Long Branch - maybe I've seen him around town?) but at the end of the day, whatever it is he is trying to do isn't helping students get an education, isn't helping keep our rivers clean and isn't addressing the root problem, which is New Jersey becoming more and more unaffordable year after year.

I wonder if Frank Pallone, also a "big shot" from Long Branch, who has taken donations from Mr. Zoffinger, is aware of the cost of tuition at Rutgers, and the pollution in the river? I would doubt Frank knows since his recent letter that came in mail made it sound like Frank cares about education costs and availability as well as clean water. Whatever Frank.... continue to do nothing, I'm sure enough people will vote for you in November so that you can continue to do nothing and your pal George can continue to damage NJ.

P.S. - In case you care, The Worst Newspaper in the World has a story about the tuition costs too. As always, the comments are most entertaining.


Eric Sedler said...

Rutgers, like all state universities, have a good way out of blame for high tution costs = Governor Corzine and the Legislature continue cutting aid given to the state higher education facilities. This year was the 2nd of the last 3 where tution aid grant money given by the state was cut.

It appears that for all the money given to students during high school and lower, this state wants it's higher ed population to look for a school in another state, thus ensuring a great possibility that these students will find jobs and success in more greener pastures than NJ. Figures right? We spend all this money on subsidizing students in high school, especially the Abbott's, and then we tell them they are basically screwed for higher ed costs and the prospects of finding a job in New Jersey are very bleak.

That all being said, Rutgers itself can't really say much when complaining, they get the brunt of grants from every politician and have a $250,000 a year lobbyist on their payroll.

I'll shut up now, out of fear that all my Rutgers friends will come find me and kick my ass..hah.

James Hogan said...

There is also a football stadium that is an expense, and the university is looking to expand. Someone (students) will be paying for that. Why not look for a corporate sponsor?

There is a football coach that gets paid more than the Governor. I'm sure for Big East football they can find a cheaper coach and/or just find some volunteer and go play in a smaller division. This isn't Texas and the football team isn't bringing in the BigBucks.

I'm sure there is plenty of money being wasted around campus and I'm sure everyone sees the waste, but no one does anything about it.

One other notable item worth mentioning is that the Ritacco Center (Tom's River High School) is available and holds MANY MANY concerts and such - all bringing money in to help cover costs of the center/school system (in theory) - I can't think of the last time I heard about some significant concert being held at the Rutger's football stadium (or the RAC for that matter) but my GF has been bugging me to order tickets for two American Idol shows (Daugherty/Avril Lavige(?) and some country singer chick) in Toms River.

There are ways to bring money into a university, or to cut wasteful spending without raising tuition, it just seems like the same people who have made the state of New Jersey an unaffordable
waste of money have made the state university an unaffordable waste of money and I haven't had the time to figure out why this Zoffinger guy's name seems to be involved in everything/anything that goes on in this state. Based on the headlines I see him mentioned in, I'm sure he is part of the problem, not part of the solution.