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(TRENTON) – Assemblyman Gary S. Schaer (D-Bergen/Essex/Passiac) today questioned the Christie administration’s decision to continue divesting in New Jersey’s colleges and universities after the Assembly Budget Committee held a hearing to discuss the Governor’s proposed FY 2012 budget for higher education.

“The ramifications of the Governor’s decision to divest in public education will be widespread and lingering. Our colleges and universities are the engines of economic growth.

“At a time when we should be investing in higher education, Governor Christie has gone in the opposite direction, once again proposing that funding remain at about $170 million below the level when he took office.

“Just to keep up with inflation, institutions will likely have to enact more program cuts, offer fewer classes, institute staff layoffs staff and raise tuition and fees.

“Even the increase in Tuition Aid Grants that the Governor had touted will largely go to students at proprietary institutions rather than the scores of students at our public and private colleges and universities. This is a direct result of the Governor eliminating language in the budget that had previously limited the level of awards to students in proprietary institutions. Ultimately, what this means is that aid for some of our most in-need students at other institutions will remain relatively unchanged.

“If tuition does rise, how does the administration expect these students to make up the difference?

“This administration’s lack of commitment to higher education may lead to a continued brain drain and a denigration of once prestigious institutions,” said Schaer, Vice Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee.