A Political Perspective: Commitment to financial aid needed

Last spring Gov. Chris Christie ended direct aid to private universities. Though some money for Tuition Aid Grants was restored, in the end Rider lost approximately $500,000 in TAGs, along with a $2 million reduction of state aid from Rider’s budget. These cuts affect programs that help financially disadvantaged students attend college. Fortunately, through salary savings and careful budget allocations Rider was able to absorb the cuts to the best degree possible. Though many in this current financial climate are cutting back, college students shouldn’t be forced to sacrifice their futures.

Amidst the funding turmoil, Rider hasn’t been idle. The University has increased the amount allocated to financial aid to $42.5 million. Yet, the recent dilemma with the state raises questions regarding how much of the University’s $186 million operating budget can be allocated to financial aid in the long run without outside revenue. The events of last spring highlight the pressures facing New Jersey’s already underfunded private institutions of higher education. The idea that Rider may be involved in a dispute over budget cuts once again next year is hardly implausible.

Given the University’s rapid growth over the past decade, Rider’s future and the well-being of its students are becoming increasingly interdependent. The University is realizing this, and fundraising revenue is being generated through one of numerous mini campaigns to increase student scholarships. Scholarship increases are concomitant with endowment growth, which also bestows professorships and academic program enhancements. We’ve also committed to different fundraising strategies, such as expanding our international programs and offering graduate courses online. Rider needs the financial vitality provided by a larger endowment, and adequate aid offerings, to make the college experience more accommodating for students in need. The costs of private education can be a high threshold for academically gifted students otherwise drawn to Rider’s small-college experience, but through financial disadvantage have no other option but to choose an institution with a cheaper asking price.

Students will not be the only beneficiaries from a commitment to financial aid. Greater financial aid allocations can also augment admission goals such as SAT scores, graduation and retention rates, because the University will be able to take in greater numbers of academically gifted individuals. Highly competitive Ivy League universities that use SAT scores as the sole basis for a potential admission exclude many promising students. However, the moderate increase to 1150 in the incoming SAT score proposed in Rider’s strategic plan is good for the health of the University. In this case, the rise in SAT scores signals that Rider is increasing its competitive draw with its peer universities such as Rutgers, Rowan or Saint Joseph’s. In addition, the students who will be shaped by the University’s student-centered experience will remember Rider’s generosity as alumni.

– Tom Scully

Junior public relations major

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