By Jonathan Allen
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The board of New Jersey's Rutgers University has slashed in half a recommended tuition hike, bucking the tide of historic tuition spikes at public colleges in cash-strapped states nationwide.
The board of governors at Rutgers, New Jersey's state university, approved on Thursday the lowest undergraduate fee increase in more than two decades.
It rejected Rutgers President Richard McCormick's call for a 3.1 percent increase in tuition and fees for in-state undergraduates, cutting the increase to 1.6 percent.
That adds $195 to the 2011-12 bill compared to the previous year, meaning the typical student will now pay $10,104 in tuition and $2,651 in mandatory student fees.
At a time when public college tuition is rising by historic amounts nationwide, including a roughly 20 percent increase at California public universities for the coming year, the Rutgers move was heralded as a victory for students.
"Cutting it in half really does send a message to students that they really are trying to strike the right balance during these hard economic times," Matt Cordeiro, president of the Rutgers University Student Assembly, said in a telephone interview on Friday.
Cordeiro and his colleagues were eager to work with the president's staff to find savings and other revenue sources to make up for the estimated $12 million difference in revenue than under the proposed budget.
Since the U.S. recession began in late 2007, at least 43 state governments have cut aid to state university systems, which typically make up the difference by increasing tuition.
At the University of Delaware this fall, for example, students will face the largest increase in tuition and fees in five years.
Cordeiro said responsibility to ensure that higher education remains affordable falls to New Jersey's government.
State aid to Rutgers has dwindled to about the same level it was in 1994 without accounting for inflation, despite the student body growing by some 10,000 to 56,000 students in that time, a university spokesman said.
Calls to the office of Ralph Izzo, chairman of the Rutgers board of governors, were not returned on Friday.
A request to interview McCormick, the university president, about the board's rejection of his proposed increase went unanswered Friday.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Cynthia Johnston)