Friday, September 4, 2009
Rider University President Mordechai Rozanski convened Fall Convocation to begin the new academic year on Thursday, September 3, in the Bart Luedeke Center Cavalla Room. He opened by reiterating his springtime Town Hall pronouncement that he would rather be at Rider than anywhere else.
“While we haven’t completely escaped the impact of the economy’s downturn or the need to enact budget constraints, we have, by and large, managed our challenges wisely, proactively, collaboratively and, most importantly, successfully,” Rozanski stated to a capacity audience of Rider faculty, administrators and staff. “As a result, I am delighted to state that our 2008-09 fiscal year ended positively with a balanced budget and that our fall enrollment is strong.
“Based on these factors, I am optimistic that our 2009-10 finances will be stable with a balanced budget, even as we practice budgetary vigilance into 2010-11,” Rozanski added, before proceeding to explain, in greater detail, the reasons for his pride and confidence in the University.
Praising the efforts of faculty and staff to bolster student achievement, Rozanski pointed to several specific gauges of Rider’s progress. “Academic outcomes continue to strengthen,” he said. “The evidence is clear, not only in the many awards our students are winning in regional, national and international competitions, but also in the strong overall GPAs of our students, both in Lawrenceville and Princeton. We are enormously proud of our students. Their success is our success.”
Rozanski also praised the University’s new student enrollment success. “This year, we have continued our progress by exceeding our overall enrollment goals, improving the quality and diversity of our new students, and sustaining the persistence of continuing students,” he said, noting that based on current enrollment activity, Rider’s expected final tally of new student fall enrollment will be 10 percent higher than last year and five percent above goal, and that continuing-student enrollment will also slightly exceed goal.
“Clearly, our affordability measures, academic quality and various facilities enhancements have all contributed to our competitiveness and successful enrollment results for fall 2009,” explained Rozanski, who specifically credited the University’s increased financial aid and moderate tuition increase for this achievement. Rider increased its financial aid budget in support of new and continuing students by 11 percent for a total of $38 million dollars.
With regard to the University’s operating performance, Rozanski indicated that in addition to the current and projected balanced budgets, the endowment’s performance for the year ending June 30 was better than expected at negative 19.8 percent and better than many peers’ published results.
Fundraising also achieved some successes. Despite the economy-driven downward trend in giving to higher education nationally, Rider’s total giving of gifts and pledges exceeded $10 million, a 32 percent increase over 2008, while cash donations reached a historic high, exceeding $7.6 million for fiscal year 2009. Most of these gifts will be directed toward capital projects, though endowment gifts for scholarships also rose substantially. On the downside, the Annual Fund mirrored the declining trend in giving, falling 19 percent short of its goal. Rozanski thanked all donors, particularly alumni and faculty and staff for their generous support during this ongoing quiet phase of Rider’s comprehensive campaign in support of institutional priorities.
Even with these positive financial results, Rozanski called for budgetary discipline as the University planned for 2010-11. Beyond the need to be cautious in a difficult economic environment, the successful precautionary budget measures taken for 2009-10 created continuing financial obligations in the budget. This was because such measures as a lower tuition rate and increased financial aid were achieved through savings from operating budget reductions or deferred hiring. Rozanski said that while hiring commitments would be met, and no additional major budget reductions were contemplated, ongoing expenditure restraint was necessary. He was confident that with the community’s continued careful budgetary practices, the University’s financial future would remain strong.
Finally, Rozanski turned his attention to Rider’s facilities on both campuses, which he said continue to be a major focus of the University’s strategic priorities. “Quality facilities are essential for achieving success and satisfaction in everything we do here at Rider,” Rozanski stated, “for teaching and learning; for residential, athletic and co-curricular experiences; for a quality work environment; and for recruitment and retention.”
Some $65 million has been invested in new and upgraded facilities on both campuses over the last five years, said Rozanski, highlighting academic projects completed this summer involving classroom, laboratory, and other academic space renovations. He also reported that several residence projects were completed. In Lawrenceville, these included the 150-bed LEED Silver-certified West Village Residential Complex and renovations and air conditioning in Switlik Residence Hall. At Westminster Choir College, 13 practice rooms will be acoustically upgraded in Seabrook Hall.
Looking ahead, Rozanski highlighted several upcoming academic, student life and athletic projects, all funded through external donations, bond reserve funds and operating unit contributions, rather than borrowing. These include the construction of a new academic building adjacent to Memorial Hall and the expansion of the theater in the Bart Luedeke Center. These projects will meet classroom and office space needs, in addition to supporting growing enrollment in the Westminster College of the Arts. Rozanski also announced construction this year of a new turf field that will support Rider’s Division I sports as well as intramurals, club sports, and summer camps and conferences.
Rozanski also noted that fundraising continues toward completion of several future facilities priorities including a new performance complex on the Princeton campus, complete with classrooms, rehearsal and performance space, a large reception lobby and a connector to the Playhouse. Fundraising and planning are also under way to extensively renovate Alumni Gym on the Lawrenceville campus in order to enhance venues for men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball and wrestling.
Concluding, Rozanski declared that his priorities in the coming year are focused on continuing to advance Rider’s institutional goals towards the its next level of excellence and to respond proactively to its challenges. “In all of this, I am proud to be a member of the Rider community,” he said. “I am grateful for the dedication and support of our University community and I am confident about our future.”