The Montclair State University community and others have responded to the financial hardship special report The Montclarion published last week which highlights the financial struggles students face including differing dining prices, obtaining financial aid and finding creative ways to save money and make ends meet.
“The financial hardships that stuck out to me personally were how many people were not allowed to gain entry to the pantry just because they have a meal plan, which does scare me because the food on campus is already expensive enough as [it] is,” said senior communication and media arts major Nicolette Cetrulo.
Cetrulo said the article was informative as to how many students struggle financially, and she relates to them. She also said that the pantry idea is an improvement for campus, but she believes that the system could be improved by making it more accessible.
Junior biology major Ramzie Chouman said she was surprised by the amount of students with financial issues.
“I feel sympathy and, you know, for some people it’s hard to relate because a lot of people do have supportive families, including myself,” Chouman, a commuter, said.
Chouman said that the person who created their own computer to save $700 was smart and that she would do the same if she knew how.
Some like Gary Al, who responded to the article through a Facebook post, believe there are smarter ways to balance college financially.
University President Susan Cole said Montclair State is the third lowest tuition for a public university in New Jersey, but it’s still too high in her opinion and there is a lot of work to do.
“I am deeply concerned about the affordability of New Jersey’s public colleges and universities,” Cole said. “Montclair State University has a dedicated staff that works with commitment to assist students with financial need, but we are unable to address all students’ problems. That inability is distressing because I am aware of why a good portion of the problem exists.”
Cole said that New Jersey’s Tuition Aid Grant (TAG) program covered 100 percent of tuition for students in need attending public institutions when first established in 1978. Since then, the program has changed and puts many students at a disadvantage. For example, a student could be offered a different amount of aid depending on what public institution they pick.
State aid is dwindling. In 2006 approximately 16,000 students were enrolled at Montclair State and state appropriation was $50 million. In 2017, more than 22,000 students were enrolled and state appropriation was $35.859 million.
According to Cole, regulations for financial aid are complex.
“As a consequence, it is extremely important that students are attentive to the details of the filing requirements and deadlines,” Cole said. “Too often, students delay action until the last minute, and that makes getting them the aid they need more difficult, both for them and for the university officers who are trying to assist them.”