Faculty combats governor’s cuts

by Dalton Karwacki

karwackid@theridernews.com

The effort to lessen the effects on students of Gov. Chris Christie’s multimillion dollar cuts to higher education funding will be aided by Rider’s professors, according to faculty union officials.

The Rider Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is partially delaying faculty pay raises and using the approximately $83,000 in savings to help meet the financial need of students. The agreement will replace the previously agreed upon 3.4 percent raise in September with a 2.4 percent raise in September, with the remaining 1 percent taking effect in January.

“We wanted to get this in place so that the monies would be available for financial appeals,” said Dr. Jeffrey Halpern, contract administrator for the AAUP. “We wanted to help as many students as possible fill in the gap.”

Faculty union president Elizabeth Scheiber sent out an e-mail last month announcing the proposal. Scheiber, who could not be reached for comment, explained in her e-mail that, while Rider, as a private institution, is more protected from the budget cuts than a public institution, there are still effects to be felt. Christie’s budget, which was signed into law on June 29, ends all direct aid to private institutions. This has removed $2 million from Rider’s budget. These lost funds are in addition to the statewide cuts of $15 million from the student financial assistance program and nearly $4 million from the Equal Opportunity Fund (EOF).

“These programs are absolutely essential in making higher education accessible to low-income students and are particularly key for many of our students,” Scheiber’s e-mail said.

She pointed out that, even in the face of these cuts, Rider has increased its financial aid budget from $38 million to $42 million over the past two years.

According to Halpern, the governor’s cuts are reckless in their impact on taxpayers and education.

“We all pay taxes, so we should not have to make gestures like this, though we clearly felt it was necessary,” he said. “This is the future of New Jersey that the governor is undermining.”

Scheiber also lamented the effects of the governor’s cuts.

“Higher Education across the country is facing a storm of unprecedented magnitude,” she wrote. “In New Jersey, Gov. Christie has ruthlessly slashed support for Higher Education, cutting both direct aid as well as student financial assistance.”

Halpern criticized the way the cuts only affect some sections of the population.

“This is class warfare,” Halpern said. “It’s warfare on the middle class and the poor.”

Even before the budget was signed into law, the university was actively working to eliminate its harmful cuts. Representatives from Rider have participated in legislative hearings and met with legislators. There have also been newspaper and radio ads taken out by the university.

Scheiber’s e-mail concluded with an explanation of the origin and reason for the proposed pay raise structure.

“It should be understood that the University did not approach us, but rather we approached them with this proposal; further, our motivation for doing so was not due to concerns about the overall financial health of the institution (which is sound), but rather it was in the spirit of providing additional help for our most needy students,” she wrote.

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