In his State Budget Address Governor Chris Christie said that because spending is under control it’s time to prioritize and, “One such priority is New Jersey’s colleges and universities.”

The chairman of the State Senate Budget Committee says Christie actions contradict his words.

“Direct state aid (to colleges and universities) has declined, literally $105 million dollars since this administration has taken office,” says Senator Paul Sarlo. “That is completely contradictory to, ‘we have made this our priority.’”

New Jersey Secretary of Higher Education Rochelle Hendricks says, “There’s been a decline in New Jersey for decades in terms of our support for higher education. I think the Governor’s turning the corner and he’s turning the corner in a very difficult financial time.”

“I understand these are difficult economic times,” says Sarlo. “I think we just need to be correct in how we’re spinning this to the press, to the public, to our students out there. We’re down $105 million.”

Hendricks explains, “This year there have not been additional cuts. There has certainly been an increase in terms of student aid……The increase to student assistance is significant and I don’t want us to go away thinking it’s not.”

Christie’s budget proposes an increase of over $28 million above last year for student financial assistance, the bulk of which is a 10% increase in the funding for tuition aid grants.

In his budget message, Christie said, “Because the people of New Jersey stood strong with me and had faith over the last two years, I am proud to say this budget proposes a nearly 6% increase in direct aid to our senior public colleges and universities. We are able to help make college more available and affordable for New Jersey families, but we need to do more.”

The Governor is also asking the legislature to approve $1 million in funding to help create a new Governor’s Urban Scholarship Program to help provide students in New Jersey’s inner cities the opportunity they need to succeed.