Rutgers University's Board of Governors approved hundreds of dollars in annual tuition and fee increases Thursday as angry students opposed to the hike drowned out the vote with shouts and protests.
When combined the increases in tuition and fees would increase costs 3.3 percent, or $427 more per year, for in-state undergraduate students in New Brunswick.
Under the budget approved in a 7-2 vote, room and board will increase by 1.5 percent or $166 per academic year, some of which will go toward stocking the university kitchen with cage-free eggs, a measure that received considerable student support.
That means a student at New Brunswick living on campus would pay nearly $600 more per year. Specific charges for other Rutgers students may differ, as tuition, fee, room and board rates vary across the university's campuses and schools.
Budget officials said the hikes were necessary to fund mandatory salary increases and will be used as seed money for projects.
Nancy Winterbauer, vice president of university budgeting, also blamed the state of the economy. Winterbauer told the board they tried to keep the tuition increase as low as possible while maintaining costs. Winterbauer dismissed a suggestion the tuition increase somehow helped fund the university's recent merger with the University of Medicine and Dentistry.
Increasing tuition is "a big decision and one that is done with careful deliberation and lots of considerations," Winterbauer said.
"We have competing needs," Winterbauer told the board. "We have to be affordable, we have to be accessible, we have to be financially sound but we also have to be able to maintain academic excellence."
Students packed the hearing in New Brunswick — many telling stories of having to drop out of the school because they couldn't afford classes. They said having to pay an extra few hundred dollars per year could mean choosing between buying books and buying food.
Margarita Rosario, 19, of Jersey City, said she had to drop out of the university for one semester freshman year because she could not afford to pay for tuition, room and board. She said she returned only after she dropped her room and board costs.
She testified the increase "would cause students like me who are capable and willing to attend this university to have to leave."
During the vote students shouted at the board, drowning out the vote. The students stood, many holding signs, repeatedly chanting "The students come first." Security guards were called in but the students later walked out, chanting "shame" with one yelling "we'll be back" before heading out the door.
Rutgers approved a 2 1/2 percent increase last year. It cost the average in-state Rutgers student $13,073 in tuition and fees.
Rowan University is holding the line on tuition and fees for undergraduate students from New Jersey at $12,380.
Richard Stockton College trustees approved keeping tuition at the 2012-13 level of $12,322 for in-state students.