Governor-elect Chris Christie Monday pledged greater state support for higher education – but not just yet. Christie said it would be at least a year until he could untangle the budget mess that put the state $9 billion in the hole and that he could not promise the schools’ state support would not be cut in the interim. However, in a meeting with the leaders of the state’s colleges and universities at Rutgers University, he said higher education would be a priority once the state was on firmer financial footing.
“In the first year I don’t know that I’m going to be able to do anything with increasing funding for higher ed,” Christie said. “I hope things will turn around in the next two years.”
The governor-elect pledged regular meetings with the presidents’ council and said there would be a point person for higher education in the office of his chief of staff.
He said the schools had suffered eight years of “neglect” at the hands of Democratic administrations. Among states “we’re in the bottom three in terms of investment for higher education,” Christie said after the meeting. “That’s just disgraceful.”
Christie twice invoked the legacy of fellow Republican Governor Tom Kean, who was known for his support of education when in office a generation ago.
The governor-elect did not provide specifics about the size of the investment he thinks is needed in the sector but said he is committed to increasing space for more student while reigning in tuition costs, which are among the highest in the nation for public colleges and universities.
“I have not looked at the dollar amounts,” Christie said. “But we need to be competitive with the states around us.”
Rutgers President Richard McCormick said the meeting was “very satisfying” and that the council hoped for better days ahead. But, for the coming year, McCormick warned that the university likely would struggle with more cutbacks. Therecord.