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Chris Christie says "no"

A couple weeks back there was a story on the wires about how college endowments across the country have been taking a beating. Actually, that news is over a year old, and many of them are back up from their lows with the stock market rebounding last year. One institute actually did measure the carnage from '08 to '09, and it's not pretty. The Targum's take on everything was that, compared to other universities, Rutgers took less of a hit in all of that. Guess a small loss is better than a bigger one.

True, but that's partially a symptom of the Rutgers endowment being so small to begin with. RU ranks 105th in the country at $545 million, a relative pittance considering the size of the school, and its academic reputation. That number ought to be two, if not three times as large. That it's not is a symptom of decades of fiscal neglect. RU has always neede to focus on the here and now, and neglect those important long term priorities. Which, just creates more of a shortfall over time.

On that note, it appears that any mutual goodwill between Chris Christie and Rutgers (and other public New Jersey colleges and universities) is on ice for the moment. Last week, facing a large budget deficit, Christie announced immediate cuts of $475 million to local municipal school districts that were running surpluses. That sparked a political firestorm (with Abbott and whatnot still looming over state politics like a Sword of Damocles), but buried in the resulting headlines were news of further cuts of $62 million to higher ed.

The plan to cut $62.1 million in funding to the state's public colleges and universities is likely to trigger more hikes in a state where public tuition already is among the highest in the nation, averaging $11,000 annually at the four-year schools.

In December, Christie met with higher education leaders and slammed what he called eight years of Democratic neglect. He promised that their schools would be a priority in his administration but warned that near-term cuts could be in the offing.

"We knew this was going to be a tough budget," said Paul Shelly, spokesman for the New Jersey Association of State Colleges.

Last year, the Legislature imposed a one-time cap of 3 percent on tuition increases at the schools. Rutgers, the state university, has had several cutbacks and layoffs in the past several years. In a statement Thursday, the university called the cuts an "additional hardship."

Short term pain was expected in the FY 2011 budget, but this is going to exacerbate problems coming on such short notice. There may very well have been no good alternatives, but that's been the reasoning used to slash funding for the past two decades. For all the blue ribbon commissions and their recommendations, none of that means a thing until the Governor lives up to his campaign promises. Until then, Chris Christie can wear all the t-shirts he wants. In action, to this point he's been just like Jim Florio, Christie Todd Whitman, Jim McGreevey, and Jon Corzine: that is, no friend of Rutgers.