By Stephen Neukam
As the university continues to grapple with the financial fallout caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Rider has decided not to discount tuition prices for the upcoming academic year, sticking with a 3.2% increase in cost and a one-time grant for students in the fall, according to a university administrator.
The $700 grant will cover the increase in tuition costs for the fall semester.
The move showcases the delicate balance that universities across the country will have to strike in the future — providing a fair rate for students and families that face an increasingly uncertain future and attempting to secure the short and long-term viability of the school.
Students will pay tuition for what will be a radically different college experience, at least in the fall. As part of the university’s reopening plan, significant changes have been made to academic programs and on-campus life. On July 15, the university announced that residential occupancy for the fall will be at 50-65%.
Rider will also not waive other fees that students are billed for, such as the student activity fee and technology fee, which amount to $740 a year, according to Vice President for University Marketing and Communication Kristine Brown.
The school’s decision comes as other regional universities have implemented various discounting mechanisms for students. The College of New Jersey will keep tuition flat for the next semester but cut fees to reduce costs; Rutgers University announced a 15% break on fees and a tuition freeze; Princeton University will offer a 10% tuition discount and eliminate some fees.
Patrick McLoughlin, a junior accounting major, said that while he understands that the university needs resources, it is not fair to put more strain on students who are already going “a million miles an hour into debt.”
“I do not believe it’s fair for students to still have to pay full tuition for a lessened academic experience,” said McLoughlin. “[It] just feels like they put their own financial security over the student’s financial security.”
McLoughlin said he would like to see Rider adjust tuition rates to reflect the educational experience most students will get with online and modified in-person classes.
According to the university, the overall increase in tuition, fees and room and board, 2.5%, is the lowest in two decades.
Brown said that Rider will continue to explore ways to provide financial support to students and their families.
In a statement to The Rider News, Rider’s Student Government Association (SGA) acknowledged the university’s efforts to accommodate student needs but said that students should not have to deal with increased economic burdens during such an uncertain time.
“Limitations on facility usage could hinder students’ educational experiences, especially in majors that rely heavily on in-person learning. Moreover, recent communications indicate that housing, dining, and student activities could differ greatly from the traditional campus experience,” said the statement. “It should be noted that other local institutions, such as TCNJ and Princeton, have dropped their overall cost of attendance for undergraduate students. While the realities of the fall semester are still largely uncertain, SGA will continue to monitor the situation and advocate for fair tuition rates accordingly.”
The economic effects of the pandemic hit the university at a time when it was already in a delicate financial state. For years, the university has run multi-million dollar budget deficits while struggling to maintain and increase enrollment numbers. In February, President Gregory Dell’Omo teased a plan to even the budget by 2024 — the pandemic has thrown those plans and others into flux.
Brown said that fall enrollment is expected to reach the administration’s targeted goal, but that there is a greater degree of uncertainty about where enrollment numbers will ultimately end up. The university’s financial outlook for the academic year will become clear in mid-August when the Board of Trustees is expected to approve the budget.