‘We’re moving in the right direction’

By Alexis Schulz and Thomas Albano

Enhanced admissions activities, such as the Trustees Scholarship, to help increase enrollment was one of several initiatives President Gregory Dell’Omo announced in a town hall meeting.

The university has now implemented several recruiting plans in order to ensure increased enrollment in future years. One of these is full-scholarship Trustee awards, which will be given to 10 incoming freshmen. Last weekend, 61 candidates met with faculty for interviews to determine the 10 recipients.

“I think [the Trustees Scholarship] is going to hopefully increase our yield, increase the quality of students as well as increase our discount to some extent, but this is an investment that we want to make,” he said to faculty, staff and SGA representatives in the Yvonne Theater on Feb. 18.

Dell’Omo said he would also like to focus on looking at how he could make use of the land Rider owns. He envisions the possibility of creating something useful, not just for the Rider community, but for Lawrenceville itself.

Essentially, he wants a college town.

“One of the things I want to look for, particularly in the front of campus, is how do we take that land on Route 206 and create a college town that has retail attached to it that the university community can use, the community at-large could use and maybe put some housing attached to it, but we have to start thinking out of the box, taking a look at all of our assets, particularly land, and figure out how we can use it to our best advantage,” he said.

The university had three fall open house programs attended by 1,372 students, and has two admitted-student-day programs scheduled in March and April to further increase recruiting. The marketing budget was increased from $250,000 to $410,000, and Rider has launched new Internet campaigns, including videos, and put up six Rider “outcomes” billboards in the New Jersey/Philadelphia region.

Spring undergraduate and graduate enrollment was also discussed during the town hall meeting. Undergraduate enrollment exceeded the university’s goal by 12 students, and the fall-to-spring retention rate for freshmen increased from 92.8 percent to 94.4 percent. Dell’Omo said the university should take pride in this achievement.

“This spring, we tried to be as aggressive as we possibly could to make sure our enrollment was as healthy as possible,” he said.

The College of Continuing Studies (CCS) was short of its credit goal, down 201 credits, but surpassed its full-time enrollment goal by eight students. Graduate Westminster and business achieved their enrollment goals; meanwhile, graduate education achieved 95 percent of its revenue goal and graduate liberal arts achieved 93 percent.

Dell’Omo said facilities maintenance is easily left behind when there is a budget crisis; however, down the road it can create bigger problems for the university when the facilities are no longer modern, and it impacts the value of the university. During the town hall, he discussed past, current and future facilities projects.

“When you think about our value proposition, first and foremost, it starts with the academics, the programs, the quality of the programs and the outcomes associated with those programs — that’s critical,” said Dell’Omo.

While bachelor’s degrees in sport management, healthcare management and allied health studies began being offered this past fall, upcoming programs to start in fall 2016 will include bachelor’s degrees in organizational psychology and health sciences, a master’s degree in homeland security and a concentration in technical theatre. Pending approval, a sports media bachelor’s program and a B.S.B.A. organizational psychology program may also be added. Healthcare policy, creative arts therapy (M.A.) and Healthcare Communication (track in M.A. Business Communication) have also been proposed for the future.

“What we have been doing even before I got here was to try and increase the attractiveness of Rider by adding new programs that the marketplace might be interested in,” said Dell’Omo.

Dell’Omo said that moving on from where the university currently is to a place where it can make much-needed progress will take a “multifaceted approach.”

“This is a combination of increased enrollment strategies, combination of cost reductions and alignments and reallocations of dollars, it’s a combination of generating more revenues, tied to real estate development and fundraising, and using reserves or possibly going back into the market to find more money, all of which add costs but add to the investment of the university,” he said.

Before conveying the main points of the meeting, Dell’Omo offered thoughts on his first seven months as president.

“Believe me when I say, I believe that as you get to know me better you’ll understand, that the last thing I wanted to do with my first semester as president was to announce a significant program and faculty reduction plan,” he said. “I know the dramatic impact this would have on the faculty, students, parents, as well as many alumni, donors, not to mention the negative publicity we have received. This was not something any of us enjoyed. I also know that some of you may still question the extent of the problems we face. Thinking a lot of this is just a power play or a ploy to seek more and more concessions from the AAUP, AFSCME employees and all other Rider employees.

“All I can say is that the situation is very real. We are not exaggerating the extent of the challenges we face. We respect the relationships and roles each and every employee and employee organization serves at Rider. And we’re in this together as a community. As such, we need to work together not only to work on the challenges that we face, which I’m sure we will, but also position the university for even greater success in the future. To me, the glass is always half full, and a way to fill that glass up even more so as we go forward.”

To see Dell’Omo’s thoughts on his first seven months as president, click here: http://www.theridernews.com/2016/02/23/dellomo-apology-at-town-hall/

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