When it comes to the states, few have been hit as hard by this crisis as New Jersey.

Inside Higher Ed reports:

Pandemic in N.J. ‘Unlike Anything’ Before

New Jersey has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

The state has had the second highest number of deaths caused by the virus. The shutdown has hampered its ability to collect revenue, much of which comes from sales tax. The state treasurer froze hundreds of millions in appropriations for the rest of the fiscal year, and the governor has extended the fiscal year through September.

Now, scores of sectors that receive public funding — including higher education — are playing a waiting game.

“I’ve talked to a number of presidents. I think the biggest challenge is really the uncertainty, and that’s what I feel from them,” said Zakiya Smith-Ellis, the state’s higher education secretary. “They would just like to know are we getting cut and by how much, and all I can say is we don’t know.”

What Smith-Ellis does know is the budget the governor proposed earlier this year won’t stay the same. But there’s been little guidance on what the budget might look like.

The state has frozen nearly $1 billion in spending. About $113 million of higher education funding is included in the freeze. While that money could be restored, few colleges are expecting that scenario.

Historically, states have cut higher education expenditures to balance budgets during economic downturns. More cuts are likely to come, but Smith-Ellis said higher education won’t be singled out.

Federal support could help states like New Jersey weather the pandemic, and Smith-Ellis is hopeful that will happen. In the meantime, institutions already are suffering losses.


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