Over the past several days, I have had the opportunity to speak with many members of our University community; both in large forums, over the phone, via email, and in person. I have greatly appreciated this honest dialogue, and am grateful to the Rider News for offering me the opportunity to allow this conversation to continue.
By now you have heard many different viewpoints pertaining to the academic changes I announced last week. Before I continue, I want to say I fully understand that this is an emotional issue with profound impacts on those who are directly affected. And it is vitally important to me that we work with the students, faculty and staff impacted by these changes and do all we can to ease their transitions.
One point I wish to clarify is the availability of certain classes within the affected majors. Although a student will no longer be able to major in the 14 programs we announced, classes will still be provided in these areas. Because of this, the juniors, seniors, and we believe even many sophomores in the affected majors, will be able to complete the classes in their chosen major. Our academic coordinators will work closely with impacted freshman to determine if another major might be suitable at Rider, and if not, we will work with them as they evaluate their options and assist them with their academic decisions.
Another important point I want to reiterate is the fact that these program changes will not lessen the value of a Rider degree – not for current students nor for alumni. Students who successfully satisfy all of the academic requirements and standards that are fully recognized within the academy have rightfully earned their degree, and that cannot be diminished even if their chosen major is no longer offered.
I know many questions abound as to why and how we made these decisions. You have heard me say that Rider’s enrollment and financial challenges are real and not overstated. I want to reiterate that point once again. Our full-time undergraduate enrollment has declined by more than 360 students over the last six years, and our graduate and part-time enrollments have also declined. This year alone, despite significant increases in applicants, admitted students and financial aid offered, we had an enrollment shortfall of 177 full time undergraduate students. Both undergraduate and graduate credits also came in below our goal.
These enrollment declines have resulted in a multi-million dollar deficit, despite the millions of dollars in prior budget and personnel cuts Rider has implemented in the past several years.
I want Rider to be in a position where we can re-invest in our University, from campus facilities to new academic programs. Ultimately it is my responsibility to make decisions that will strengthen our university and put Rider on a more competitive and secure path. I believe these changes are a step in that direction.
The institutions that will thrive in today’s difficult higher education climate will be those that continually evaluate their programs and align them with their resources to assure quality and affordability. Rider, and higher education as a whole, needs to adapt to this changing climate in order to attract and retain more students in the long term.
If we continue working together, I am confident in our collective ability to stabilize the current financial situation, and sustain the vibrant living and learning community for which Rider has been known for 150 years.
—President Gregory Dell’Omo
Printed in the 11/04/15 issue.