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Education officials concerned funding for New Jersey community colleges could be cut

Education officials concerned funding for New Jersey community colleges could be cut
Education officials concerned funding for New Jersey community colleges could be cut 02:04

JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- Funding for community colleges in New Jersey could be on the chopping block.

Gov. Phil Murphy's proposed budget would cut out $20 million.

CBS New York on Wednesday spoke with students and school leaders, who said the impacts of those cuts could be devastating.

"Our students are largely the first in their families to attend higher education. They have incredible barriers that they're navigating," said Chris Reber, president of Hudson County Community College.

Many students find ways around those barriers in community college. The 18 in New Jersey serve about 230,000 students.

CBS New York met with current and former students at HCCC in Jersey City on Wednesday. They said they found affordability and much-needed resources.

"I feel like students at community college, we tend to work the hardest because we know we don't come from a lot," graduate Paulina Sonza said.

"Like the mental health counseling, our career college, our food pantry, our Chromebook loaner, all of those things, with me being a parent, that definitely helps me," student Hannah Allen said.

"At a time when we believe that we need to invest in community colleges, we're now seeing a really disturbing reduction in the governor's proposed budget," added Aaron Fichtner, president of the New Jersey Council of County Colleges.

READ MOREGov. Phil Murphy says his proposed budget "will put more than $3.5 billion back into the pockets of New Jersey taxpayers"

Fichtner said the proposed cuts make up about 12% of state support for the schools.

Reber said the reduction could mean programming cuts and tuition hikes.

"What we don't want to do is add costs to student tuition because students can't afford it," Reber said.

Last year, the state increased funding for community colleges by $20 million. School leaders said that was the first increase in 10 to 15 years. But according to the governor's proposed budget, it was a one-time thing.

"That funding was much needed. It has helped us continue work that has gained national attention for us in terms of moving the needle on keeping our students enrolled and getting them to the finish line," Reber said.

School leaders will next be lobbying the Legislature to restores the cuts.

The governor's office said he looks forward to listening to stakeholders and working with the Legislature to finalize the budget.

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