More of the same: Tuition increase holds steady at 4.9 percent

By Dalton Karwacki

For the third year in a row, Rider’s tuition will be increasing by 4.9 percent, University officials announced on Tuesday.

The increase next year will bring the cost of a Rider education to $31,330, up by $1,460. Dean of Students Anthony Campbell and Vice President of Enrollment Management Jamie O’Hara announced the increase to the student senate.

“We work really, really hard to keep the increases down as low as we can,” said Campbell. “There are certain things we can’t control. Gas prices go up and there is the cost of everything that goes on on this campus.”

The cost of Rider’s room and board is also increasing for next year. This year, a standard double room costs $3,410 per semester. It will increase next year by $255, to $3,665 per semester. The cost of a standard meal plan will increase from $2,190 to $2,240 per semester.         None of the fees, including the student activities fee and technology fee, will increase next year.

According to O’Hara, the average increase for private in-state institutions is 5.5 percent. Tuition increases at state institutions are currently capped at  4 percent per year.

“Increases last year at our peer institutions ranged from 7.1 percent at Fairleigh Dickinson University, 5.5 percent at Monmouth University and 4.7 percent at Seton Hall University,” O’Hara said.

Officials at The College of New Jersey and Rowan University said that their tuition increases for the next year have not yet been set.

According to O’Hara, public institutions in New Jersey generally wait to announce their tuition increases when the state budget is determined in July.

“Because of the continued state budget constraints, it is expected that state institutions will increase at a higher rate than previous years,” he said.

According to a letter sent to students’ parents this week by the University about the increase, the process of setting the tuition increase is one that requires balancing several issues.

“In determining the new tuition rates, the Board of Trustees carefully balanced the need to support the quality of your educational experience with the need to maintain affordability,” the letter states.

Student reaction to the tuition increase was mixed.

“I have no idea where the extra money goes,” said junior Steph Foran. “All I know is that Rider is getting more and more expensive to attend. I take out all my loans in my own name so that’s really just putting me in a financial hole for later in life.”

Junior Sarah Badawy said that the University needs to be careful about raising the tuition.

“The more they keep increasing the tuition, the less high school juniors and seniors are going to prospectively look to attend here,” she said.

Other students were more accepting of the increase, however.

“I understand a lot of people are probably concerned and a little angry with the tuition increases, but I take the side that Rider needs the money and they’re responsibly raising tuition on an as-needed basis,” said junior Ethan Grossman. “There’s a lot behind the scenes that it takes to run a campus than what the students interact with.”

O’Hara said that one of the University’s primary concerns when figuring out the increase is how much the financial aid budget can be increased. Rider’s financial aid budget will grow by 7 percent, a total growth of $3 million. This will leave the University with $45.5 million to distribute to students.

“One of the biggest pieces that we’re looking at each year when we’re setting the increase is how much we can increase our financial aid dollars,” O’Hara said. “Where do your tuition dollars go? That’s always something I get asked. The number one piece of it does go to the aid that we give to students in the form of scholarships.”

According to O’Hara, increasing the student financial aid budget remained a priority at Rider even after Gov. Chris Christie signed a budget for the state that removed $2.5 million from Rider’s operating budget. In spite of these cuts, the financial aid budget increased by $1.9 million. Rider’s total operating budget is approximately $186 million.

“Last April, we came in with a budget that we were anticipating to be about $41.7 million in financial aid dollars,” he said. “We spent an additional $800,000 on financial aid just this year.”

He said that the University does not expect the state to return the cut $2.5 million in the near future.

“We do not anticipate that we’ll see that money again next year,” O’Hara said.

O’Hara also said that while the two construction projects on campus, the new academic building and the addition to the BLC, are largely funded through private donations, some of the funding comes out of Rider’s operating budget, marking another place where student tuition money is spent.

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