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Turner Bill Requiring More Transparency at Colleges & Universities Clears Senate

Senator Turner

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner requiring public institutions of higher education to establish policies for the implementation of additional course related fees cleared the full Senate today.

S-1635, would require colleges and universities to establish policies regarding additional course related fees, such as laboratory fees or special course fees. Under the bill, the policies would define which costs are considered anything extra of the base instructional costs for each course and require documentation to support the additional course fees.

“This bill will better ensure that institutions of higher education are not relying on fees to cover unrelated costs,” said Senator Turner (D-Hunterdon/Mercer). “This is about colleges and universities being more up-front with students and parents who are trying to pay for an education, but also being accountable for their spending.  More importantly, this bill would compel institutions of higher education to become proactive and transparent with respect to their student fees so that students can account for these additional costs and plan accordingly.”

Across the United States public investment in higher education at the state level has consistently trended downward. Simultaneously, student enrollment has steadily gone up. This combination means that public universities are increasingly expected to educate greater numbers with less funding, pushing more and more students into taking on larger and larger amounts of student loan debt.

On April 27, 2016, the State Comptroller released an audit report that looked at the issue of mandatory student fees at three State institutions of higher education: The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), Kean University (Kean) and William Paterson University (WPU).  The audit revealed that the mandatory fees charged to full-time undergraduate students by TCNJ, Kean and WPU comprised a significant percentage of the cost of attendance in FY 2012 and FY 2013. It was shown that at all three schools mandatory fees represented approximately one-third of the total amount charged to students. In FY 2013 alone, these three schools collected more than $115 million in mandatory fees. On average, students at the three schools paid between $3,600 and $4,600 in annual mandatory fees.

S-1635 cleared the full Senate 35-0 and will now head to the Assembly for further consideration.