Delivering his University Update address during spring Town Hall in the Yvonne Theater on April 27, President Mordechai Rozanski expressed confidence about Rider’s future. “Let me make it unequivocally clear that we will emerge successfully from these difficult circumstances to continue our impressive institutional progress,” he said.
Despite drastic cuts to higher education under the budget proposed by Gov. Chris Christie, Rider University continues to be the beneficiary of consistently strong financial management. “This institutional strength has helped us achieve positive financial results with balanced budgets over the years,” declared Rozanski, who, though calling the anticipated cuts “substantial and troubling,” said that “careful financial management, collaborative support from our community, and reliance on our shared values” will continue to advance the University through fiscally trying times.
Rozanski outlined the challenges posed by the proposed state budget, led by a $1.978 million decrease in direct aid to Rider as well as cuts to the Tuition Aid Grant (TAG) and Equal Opportunity Fund (EOF) programs, which would, in addition, produce a financial aid shortfall for Rider of $945,620.
In elaborating on these combined cuts of more than $2.9 million for fiscal year 2010-11 and their impact on the University, Rozanski indicated that he well understood the need for universities to do their fair share in dealing with New Jersey’s financial difficulties. However, he also expressed concern about the inequity of the proposed cuts. Under the state budget, only New Jersey’s private colleges and universities would suffer a 100-percent cut to their direct aid. These same institutions would also see a limitation imposed on maximum Tuition Aid Grants (TAG) amounting to a 40-percent cut for the neediest incoming freshmen with the lowest family income eligibility. The financial burden would likely increase in successive years, Rozanski said, if the TAG cuts were applied to the sophomore through senior classes.
Rozanski then detailed the University’s two-pronged response to the proposed cuts, the first of which includes educating legislators and policy-makers about the impact of the cuts through testimony at legislative hearings, meetings with lawmakers and the governor’s staff. The president expressed his appreciation for the assistance of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in New Jersey, the American Association of University Professors, students and others in these efforts.
“The second element in our response to the budget challenge, which we must pursue simultaneously with the first, involves contingency planning to prepare for, and absorb, the full impact of the proposed direct aid and financial aid cuts,” Rozanski said, adding that university division heads are working with faculty and staff to identify potential savings for FY 2010-11.
“These involve difficult choices, and we appreciate that they will put pressure on the community, especially in terms of workload, because of the ’chill’ in staff hiring,” he said. “Such measures have, however, allowed Rider to preserve jobs and to award raises when numerous universities have had difficulty doing so.”
Despite the need for budget reductions, Rozanski emphasized that strategic investment in Rider’s future would continue, through careful reallocation, new revenue producing programs and fundraising. He listed several principles that would guide investment decisions: the need to sustain the University’s academic enterprise, to preserve our student-centered focus, and to continue to enhance our facilities. Among the latter are Lawrenceville’s new academic building and the Bart Luedeke Center Theater expansion, for which funding of some $10 million has been secured. (Groundbreaking for these projects will occur on May 7, according to Rozanski.)
“These largely donor-funded projects are critical to meeting our growing classroom and performing arts needs, and are scheduled to be completed for fall 2011,” Rozanski said, adding that mini-campaigns will continue to raise funds for these projects, as well as for the renovation of Memorial Hall, the new academic building and Playhouse renovation on the Westminster Choir College campus and the new athletics arena in Lawrenceville.
Rozanski also cited the approval of planned safety-related upgrades to existing facilities on both campuses and the intention to move ahead with a new parking lot on the Princeton campus once permits are secured.
In continuing his university update, Rozanski was cautiously optimistic about achieving the new student enrollment goal for the start of the 2010-11 academic year, and was heartened by what he called the “significant recovery” of Rider’s Annual Fund, which is 23 percent ahead of last year. He also highlighted several recent student achievements (listed below) and a number of new and revised academic programs in each of Rider’s colleges, while praising faculty members actively engaged in publishing papers, monographs and recordings, and for presenting at conferences and engaging students in their work.
Rozanski also discussed the results of the recent Climate Survey, in which administration, faculty and staff were polled on the culture and direction of Rider and its strategic initiatives. He thanked the University community for its high rate of response – 80 percent of full-time faculty and staff, and reported that overall community satisfaction received a score of 82 percent and commitment to Rider’s continued progress, 95 percent. Additionally, the results of the survey revealed such institutional strengths as an 88-percent score for pride in Rider and a culture of respect among co-workers, and an 85-percent score for the strategic actions taken in response to the difficult economy.
“I’m pleased with our progress to date and offer my thanks to the community for its support,” Rozanski said at the conclusion of his address. “We have managed some significant challenges in the past and will undoubtedly have more to meet. But I’m confident that as a caring and collegial community, we will succeed in managing our new challenges responsibly and effectively.”
A List of Recent Student Achievements:
- Model U.N. team won two highest awards possible: Outstanding Delegation and Outstanding Position Paper
- Third place in National Small Business Institute Consulting Project of the Year competition
- Two first-place National Broadcasting Society awards at national convention First prize in the American Guild of Organists regional organ competition
- 100 percent of Rider students in Educational Leadership passed PRAXIS exam to become school principals
- Flower of Beauty, Westminster Choir’s new recording, received critical acclaim from American Record Guide, the nation’s oldest classical music review magazine
- Rider student-athletes posted an all-time high collective GPA of 3.08