by Dalton Karwacki
In spite of challenges posed by Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed budget cuts, Rider is committed to closing the resulting budget gap, since it is nearly too late for prospective students to find another school, President Mordechai Rozanski said during his annual Spring Town Hall meeting on Tuesday.
The meeting, held in the Yvonne Theater, emphasized the impact of the cuts, as well as Rider’s response. The proposed budget would cut aid to public and private colleges and universities by $173 million, nearly $3 million of which will represent cuts to Rider and future Rider students. Even so, Rozanski expressed his belief that Rider will be able to withstand the challenging times ahead.
“Let me make it unequivocally clear that I have every confidence that we will emerge successfully and financially stable from these difficult circumstances,” he said to a packed audience of faculty, staff and administrators.
From the direct aid cuts, Rider stands to lose almost $2 million. Cuts to the Tuition Aid Grant (TAG) and Equal Opportunity Fund (EOF) programs will give Rider a financial aid shortfall in excess of $945,000. If the budget passes on June 30, Rider students stand to lose a collective $848,000 from TAG cuts and more than $96,000 from EOF cuts. There are currently 900 TAG recipients at Rider, numbers that are expected to be consistent with next fall’s.
Rozanski said that Rider will do everything possible to prevent new TAG- and EOF-eligible students from being negatively impacted by these cuts. He said that, since most universities sent out acceptance letters before learning about these cuts and used financial aid packages based on this year’s levels, it would be unfair to take this money back, as students must respond with a deposit by May 1.
“Clearly, we have a moral obligation to these students to substitute Rider’s or other funds for the lost TAG and EOF awards in the financial aid packages offered,” Rozanski said.
After laying out the challenges posed by Christie’s budget, Rozanski explained how Rider is responding. One course of action the university has followed is advocacy, including participating in legislative hearings and meeting with legislators individually.
According to Rozanski, there has been a 10 percent increase in fall undergraduate applications over the last year, for a total of 8,710.
Budget cuts will not prevent investment in the campuses, Rozanski said, stating that the planned BLC expansion and new academic building in Lawrenceville will proceed, as their funding has been secured. Additionally, he said that Rider is still moving forward with plans for a new $12 million athletics arena (see Arena, p. 11) and new Westminster academic buildings, valued at $7 million.
Other upgrades to the Lawrenceville campus include several repairs and improvements to the Fine Arts building, new Career Services offices in Fine Arts and Sweigart, and structural repairs to residence halls. The Westminster campus can expect, among other things, sidewalk and retaining wall repairs, Williamson chimney repairs, an emergency generator for Talbott Library, and a new parking lot with between 71 and 93 spaces, which the president promised will be finished, though some neighbors have objected.
“Clearly, even in the face of challenges, we must continue to retain university facilities and infrastructure,” Rozanski said.