Princeton in the Community

Princeton University—an engine for central New Jersey as one of the largest private employers, a major purchaser of goods and services, and the largest taxpayer in the Municipality of Princeton—plays a significant role in the educational, cultural and economic life of the region.

The University values its longstanding, mutually beneficial relationships with nearby communities. Together the University and its neighbors continue a vibrant tradition of cooperation through on-campus learning opportunities, joint transportation and safety programs, community service projects, and initiatives in entrepreneurship, the arts and other areas.

An important example of the University’s impact is its work to strengthen the area’s innovation ecosystem, including:

  • the Google AI Lab on Nassau Street;
  • the Princeton Innovation Center BioLabs, a wet-lab space for science start-ups in Plainsboro;
  • a collaboration between Microsoft and the University to tackle fundamental challenges in microbiology; and
  • a cooperative agreement between Celgene and the University’s Princeton Catalysis Initiative.

The University’s planned Lake Campus in West Windsor will be another positive for the region. Lake Campus, located on University lands bounded by Lake Carnegie and U.S. 1, is envisioned as a mixed-use community that could include academic partnerships and innovation initiatives; convening space, administrative offices; athletic and recreational facilities; graduate student housing; and transportation and parking resources.

By the Numbers

  • Total operating budget expenditures: $2.2 billion
  • Total payroll for employees who reside in New Jersey: $724.4 million
  • New Jersey state income taxes paid by University employees: $31.3 million
  • Construction spending and major maintenance: $159 million in FY19; in the past decade, total spending has been more than $2.6 billion
  • Campus visitors estimated total: 860,000, including top attractions: athletic events, 250,000; the University Art Museum, 200,000; the McCarter Theatre Center, 120,000; Orange Key tours, 70,000; other concerts and performances, 95,000.

Financial Contributions

Property Tax Payments. The University owns approximately 2,500 acres in several central New Jersey municipalities, with significant holdings in Princeton, West Windsor Township, Plainsboro Township and South Brunswick Township. Most of the academic properties are located in Princeton, which serves as host to the University’s central campus (600 acres). The chart below includes property and sewer taxes paid.

Total Local Taxes Paid: Approximately $13.0 Million

Entity % Amount paid
Municipality of Princeton 90% $11.7 million
Other 10% $1.3 million

The University is the largest taxpayer in the Municipality of Princeton. At least $5.9 million of the University’s annual tax payments to Princeton are made voluntarily on properties that qualify for tax exemption under New Jersey law.

Voluntary Property Tax Payments. The total annual tax payment to Princeton includes taxes paid on housing for faculty, staff (including the official residence of the University president) and graduate students, as well as certain athletic venues and other campus support land. The University has traditionally left those properties on the tax rolls even though state law exempts colleges and universities from paying taxes on housing and other property related to its educational mission. Similarly, the University pays property taxes on the entirety of certain buildings used in part for exempt purposes, although state law entitles it to exemption on any portion of a building used for educational purposes.

Voluntary Cash Contributions to Municipality. In addition to annual tax payments made to the local municipalities, Princeton University makes an annual nontax voluntary contribution to Princeton. In calendar year 2018, the voluntary nontax contribution to Princeton was $3.22 million. Under a seven-year agreement that extends through 2020, the University will contribute a total of $21.72 million and will also make one-time contributions valued at $2.59 million to several identified municipal projects.

Payments for Infrastructure and Publicly Used Facilities. During the past decade, more than $2.5 million has been spent on crosswalk and road improvements for the benefit of the public. The University annually spends hundreds of thousands of dollars for the maintenance of University-owned but publicly used facilities such as the McCarter Theatre Center, an internationally renowned, Tony Award-winning regional arts facility; the Princeton Garden Theatre, the town’s only movie theater; and the upkeep of the Princeton train station, home to the “Dinky” shuttle train that links the town to major rail-transit routes.

Affordable Housing Contributions. The University is proud to partner with Princeton to provide significant funding for the construction and renovation of affordable housing in the community. In the past decade, the University’s contributions to affordable housing have totaled more than $4 million, including development of 65 units of affordable housing that are available to the public on Leigh Avenue, on Bayard Lane and at Merwick Stanworth.

Support and Special Gifts. The University has contributed more than $6.5 million in special gifts to municipalities and community organizations over the past decade.

Community Services

Under the auspices of Community and Regional Affairs, CAP enables members of the community to register to audit, or sit in on, lecture classes at the University for $175 per class. On average, 180 undergraduate classes are available each semester for auditing. Approximately 700 area residents participate in the CAP program each semester. No credit or certification is given for CAP classes. However, certified teachers currently working in New Jersey may obtain written certification for classes they have audited.

Within the Program in Continuing Education, administered by the Office of Community and Regional Affairs, individuals become officially registered students, pay full tuition for each course they take, and receive a transcript and credit that may be used toward a degree at another institution of higher learning. Teachers who are certified to teach in New Jersey may participate in this program at a greatly reduced fee.

Open Facilities

  • The Princeton University Art Museum presents highlights of its global collections, 12 to 15 exhibitions annually, and public lectures, symposia and family programs, without charge. The museum is closed on Mondays.
  • The Lewis Center for the Arts presents more than 140 art exhibits, theatrical productions, dance performances, and poetry and fiction readings, film screenings, concerts, and lectures each year, open to the public and most of them free, at venues throughout the campus.
  • Princeton athletic events are open to the public, many at no charge, with season tickets available for basketball, football and ice hockey. Athletic fields and other recreational facilities are often available to residents of the community, generally at no charge.
  • Lake Carnegie, which is owned by the University and serves as its intercollegiate rowing facility, is a popular community recreation area, providing a site for rowing, fishing, canoeing and ice skating.
  • The Princeton University Chapel, which seats nearly 2,000 people, offers religious services, free musical performances and other special events.
  • Firestone Library offers access privileges (which do not include borrowing) to the public. The public is welcome, without charge, to visit the Cotsen Children’s Library, at the main entrance to the library. Also open to the public is the exhibition gallery on the first floor. Researchers are welcome to use collections from Princeton University Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections onsite at Firestone Library, Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, and Marquand Library of Art and Archaeology after registering with a photo identification. For more information, please visit library.princeton.edu.
  • The Peyton Hall 12-inch telescope offers viewing of the night sky monthly, depending on conditions.
  • The McCarter Theatre Center — a nonprofit organization that is the home of the Matthews Theatre and the Berlind Theatre — offers drama, music, dance, film and other events ranging from acrobatics to mime. It also hosts the major productions of the programs in theater and dance and the annual show presented by student members of the Triangle Club.
  • Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall hosts musical, dramatic and other performances, most of them open to the public.
  • Taplin Auditorium in Fine Hall hosts campus musical groups throughout the year, which are sponsored by the Department of Music.
  • Theatre Intime, a student-run facility, schedules dramatic productions, dance performances and comedy shows throughout the academic year at Hamilton-Murray Theater. This theater is used in the summer by Princeton Summer Theater for highly acclaimed productions, as well as special shows for children.