By Emily Landgraf
It’s the time of year that any college student dreads: the tuition increase announcement.
Despite the fact that Rider’s 4.9 percent increase is more than double the rate of inflation in the United States over the last 12 months, which is 2.3 percent, Rider administrators assured students that the rate would be manageable.
Jamie O’Hara, vice president of enrollment management, and Drew Aromando, executivee director of operations for Student Financial Services, discussed both tuition and financial aid increases with the student Senate on Tuesday, April 13.
“We went through a lot to keep this rate as low as we could,” O’Hara said.
The tuition has risen to $29,870, an increase of $1,400, or $70 more than the increase students faced last year. The tuition was $28,470 for the 2009-10 academic year. Resident students will be paying an additional $490 for room and board. Those living in a standard double will be paying $3,410.
According to O’Hara, the rate is lower than many other colleges and universities in the area, although the current state budget proposal holds public institutions to 4 percent increases.
“The process always starts with how you build the operating budget,” O’Hara said. “One of the most important parts is how we’re going to set the scholarship budget. I think the resources for scholarships are important to both continuing and new students.”
Rider will be increasing its scholarships and need-based aid next year by 4 percent, or $1.5 million.
“The tuition increase cannot be looked at without also considering the institution’s commitment to make the Rider education affordable through financial aid and scholarship,” O’Hara wrote in an e-mail. “Between 2005 and 2010, Rider increased its Scholarship and Aid budget by 72 percent from 24.2 million for 2005-06 to an estimated $41.7 million for 2010-11.”
It is not unusual for tuition to increase at a higher percentage than the Consumer Price Index (CPI), said O’Hara.
“What usually makes tuition increases higher than the CPI is the substantial costs of delivering a high quality education with relatively small classes.”
The biggest challenge will be the budget cuts that the governor has proposed, should the budget pass in June, according to O’Hara.
“At this point, where the cuts are proposed, it would be difficult for some of our students, and we want to make sure that the state senators and the governor realize the challenges that some of the students would face,” he said.
O’Hara also wanted to reassure students that the issues surrounding Tuition Aid Grants (TAG) (See Budget, p. 1) grants being cut will not affect current students, only those beginning their college career in fall 2010.
“At this point, Rider is not alone in this,” O’Hara said. “Whatever happens with the overall cuts to TAG, if there are cuts to TAG, it will impact all New Jersey students regardless of which private school they choose to attend.”
O’Hara also stressed that the budget cuts will not affect the academic scholarships that Rider awards.
“If you have [a scholarship], you know what your qualifiers are in regards to your GPA,” he said. “If you continue to meet these requirements, you will continue to receive your scholarship.”
O’Hara and Aramando also discussed financial aid with the students, stating that students will need to be on the ball this year when it comes to loans.
“The proactivity that we’re looking for is for people to complete their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA),” O’Hara said. “Many times, students wait to complete their FAFSA. We’re advising students to have their FAFSA forms completed by March. It’s always better to be proactive.”
This proactivity is necessary because of the switch to government lending, said O’Hara.
Aromando informed the Senate about the new student-lending program and a way that they could save scholarships.
“If you don’t meet the requirements for your scholarship, you can enroll in summer classes to bring up your GPA so that you are able to keep that scholarship,” Aromando said. “This is a really important thing that students should know about.”
Aromando explained that students will be taking out loans with the government now. While the process is essentially the same, students will need to fill out a new promissory note with the Department of Education, said Aromando.
Despite the economic downturn, Rider is forging ahead with plans to try to make the college experience more beneficial for its students.
“While these financial challenges will necessitate continued cost controls to sustain and enhance the quality of your educational experience, we must continue to invest in our university,” wrote President Mordechai Rozanski in a letter that will soon be mailed to all families of students Rider.
This means that Rider will be expanding online courses and summer courses, as well as the winter academic session that was piloted this January. O’Hara feels that these classes should be utilized, particularly by those students who are worried about the cost of not graduating on time.
“I have to remind you that these classes are half the price,” O’Hara said. “There are bargains to be had. We want you to be able to graduate on time. I think it offers flexibility, and I think it’s a great opportunity for students. It’s something that more of our students should be looking at.”
Rider will also be continuing with its two important facilities projects — a new academic building and the expansion of the BLC Theater — in order to provide students with a better learning experience both in and out of the classroom. The construction of the turf field is also going according to plan.
“I think we can all agree that we need more classroom space,” O’Hara said. “[These projects are] good investments that are going to be critical to us as we move forward.”
O’Hara also explained that, with the introduction and expansion of musical theater program on the Lawrenceville campus, the university needs to offer more space for these students, as well.
“It’s important to have the right facilities for the [theater] productions,” said O’Hara.
The money for these projects comes from private fundraising and will not affect Rider’s operating budget, said O’Hara.
Junior John Lanza, a history major, believes that Rider, and the educational system in general, will need to reconsider the way that it operates.
“I hope that the university’s budget will shrink and costs will not simply be piled onto the already heavy financial burden on the student body, but then again, we are talking about Rider,” he said.
Sophomore Michelle Meredith, a secondary education and history major, has a brighter outlook.
“Considering what it could be, I’m actually not too offended,” she said. “Consider how cut off Rider is from [state] aid now, I think we might need to count our blessings.”
Although the tuition increase and budget problems of New Jersey may seem bewildering to most, O’Hara said he is confident that Rider will pull through the tough times.
“We know it’s a tight time frame and it’s a lot to accomplish, but we’re excited about it,” said O’Hara.