Tuition at Rutgers jumps 6% — more than double increase from 2022

Increased labor costs cited as one reason for increase; cost of meal plans (7%) and housing (5%) also took big jumps

In the beginning, middle and during the end of the labor negotiations between Rutgers University and its unions, Gov. Phil Murphy was very clear: He did not want any increases in pay to fall on the backs of students.

It’s unclear if the governor got his wish.

On Monday, the Rutgers board of governors approved a $5.4 billion operating budget for the fiscal year that began July 1 — one that includes a 6% increase in tuition and fees for the 2023-2024 academic year, a nearly 7% increase for meal plan costs and a 5% increase in housing costs for students who reside in Rutgers facilities.

Breaking down tuition

Tuition for full-time New Jersey arts and sciences undergraduate students at Rutgers University will increase by approximately $387, from $6,450 per semester to $6,837. Fees vary by program and by student, but typical fees are estimated to increase by approximately $100 per semester.

The percentage increase in tuition is a little more than double that of the previous year, when tuition went up 2.9%.

Are the two connected? That’s for others to decide.

This much is clear: Rutgers officials said salaries were one of the factors that led to the large increase.

The school said the increases reflect rising costs to the university including general inflation, increases in salaries and wages, sharp increases in utilities and commodities and unprecedented increases in the cost of employee benefits, including health insurance premiums and pension contributions.

A request for comment from the Governor’s Office was not immediately returned.

William Best, chair of the Rutgers board of governors, spoke to the entirety of the budget in a release provided by the school.

Why is tuition rising?

Rutgers University officials said Monday that the costs of meeting the university’s three-part mission of instruction, research and public service have dramatically increased in recent years — leading to a 6% tuition increase.

Here are some of the reasons Rutgers officials said contributed to the increase:

  • Energy costs: They have affected the university in the same way that they have affected family budgets and have increased by approximately 20% over the past few years.
  • Health insurance and pension costs: The university’s 20,000 benefit-eligible employees saw dramatic and unprecedented one-year increases this year. In fact, state health benefit costs increased by more than 22% in November 2022. Compounding the financial difficulty, the increase was imposed retroactively, and presented the university with an unanticipated $48 million cost.
  • Salaries: The university’s new labor contract with the faculty union, which was agreed to in May 2023 following the first-ever strike by the university faculty, applies retroactively to July 1, 2022. It increases labor costs by nearly 8% in the first two years and by a similar amount in the last two years of the four-year agreement.

“We are committed to providing access to an excellent academic experience, and this budget advances that pledge while meeting our financial responsibilities during a very challenging time,” he said. “We remain equally committed to strengthening financial aid programs that reduce net costs for a majority of our students.”

Rutgers tuition provides funding for the university’s primary missions of student instruction, research and public service. Tuition also funds financial aid programs for students in need of assistance. To be sure, tuition assistance for the most needy certainly has increased in recent years.

Rutgers officials said a majority — 77% — of the $5.4 billion budget is spent on the university’s core mission: 33% on academic instruction and support; 32% on student scholarships, financial aid and services, public service, extension and patient care; and 12% on research activities. The budget projects spending $159 million, 3%, on athletics.

Four of five Rutgers students receive some form of student financial aid from federal, state, private or institutional financial aid programs, including need-based and merit-based grants, scholarships and loans.

“This budget ensures that Rutgers will continue to provide our students with exceptional academic, research and public service opportunities as they pursue their education and engage in civic life,” President Jonathan Holloway said.