By Angela Romansky and Rachel Stengel
The number of transfer students for the fall 2011 semester is up at Rider by 30 percent over last year, the largest increase in transfer students in recent school history, according to Jamie O’Hara, vice president for Enrollment Management.
The number of students transferring into the university increased from 219 students during the 2010-2011 academic year to 285 this semester. Of the 285 transfer students who enrolled this fall, 70 percent were from community colleges and 30 percent came from four-year institutions, O’Hara said.
Dean of Students Anthony Campbell said that many students are attending community colleges to offset some of the costs of education.
“When you start looking at the statistics, more families are using community colleges as cost-averaging techniques to try to help defray the costs for a family,” Campbell said. “[Rider has] articulation agreements with many of the community colleges so that the courses you take there transfer as long as you get a good grade. The credits will transfer so you don’t lose any.”
The trend toward community colleges is occurring statewide. Over the past two years, full-time enrollments at community colleges have increased by 14 percent in New Jersey, according to O’Hara.
According to the Sallie Mae study “How America Pays for College,” American families spent 9 percent less on college in the 2010-2011 academic year than the previous year. The largest decline in college spending came from upper-income families (those who earn $100,000 or more a year). This group spent approximately $6,000 less than the previous year. The percentage of high-income families that chose two-year colleges nearly doubled, rising from 12 percent to 22 percent.
As a result of this trend, Rider has had to make adjustments to its new student programs, said Cherilyn Barbone, an admissions counselor.
“Over the past few years, our new student programs have become geared specifically for transfers rather than a combination of both transfers and freshmen. It’s necessary with the influx of transfers,” Barbone said.
To attract potential transfer students, four-year universities and colleges face the challenge of establishing affordable tuition while still maintaining student appeal.
“Tuition’s a large factor, but people don’t choose a school just based on price,” junior Nick Wright said. “If Rider were to cut down on spending to lower tuition but then students found other schools more appealing, their chances of financial problems or bankruptcy would increase.”
Junior Courtney Stuck transferred to Rider from Burlington County College because of its national reputation and close-knit community.
“I chose Rider because of the education program’s respected reputation and because I just felt at home on the campus,” Stuck said. “I didn’t want to go to a big school like Rutgers because I know my learning style, and that’s just not for me.”
One reason that Rider and similar private schools are able to keep their numbers up is because they have declared themselves “need-blind” schools, Barbone said.
According to Barbone there are schools that take into consideration financial stability as part of the admissions process.
“Since we are a need-blind school, a student’s financial situation does not affect the admission process,” Barbone said.
According to Rider University’s financial aid website, 93 percent of Rider University students receive some type of scholarship or financial aid. That is the typical percentage for other private school students receiving aid throughout the state as well. Financial aid consists of grants, loans, work/study programs and scholarships.
Also, despite steep cuts to Tuition Aid Grants (TAG) over the past two years, Rider University provided approximately $45.5 million in student financial aid this year, according to O’Hara.
“Rider is seeing an increase in enrollment from transfer students because we offer a supportive environment that includes timely transfer-credit evaluations, strong academic programs and advisement and scholarships,” O’Hara said.