In a challenging economy, Rider University is stable, balancing its budget, and committing more than $50 million in financial aid to students.
Sean Ramsden

President Mordechai Rozanski presented the Opening Fall Convocation Address on August 30.

Student and faculty achievements, fundraising success and campus enhancements reveal Rider as a financially stable and academically vibrant university, Rider President Mordechai Rozanski said in his Fall Convocation address on August 30 in Yvonne Theater. Still, Rozanski cautioned, the University is not immune to the lingering impact of the economic recession, which continues to pose a threat to colleges and universities in terms of enrollment and students’ need for financial assistance.

“As with most of higher education, our challenges are primarily financial and have largely been caused by external factors,” he explained. “They entail the overriding issues of affordability and access for our students.”

He noted that Rider should once again operate with a balanced budget this academic year – but it will require a collegial, University-wide cost-containment discipline to spend carefully and efficiently. And planning for next year and beyond will require continued – and increased – diligence.

“We have to take preventive measures over the next several years, in what I would call a bridging strategy, to continue the positive progress we’ve achieved together over the past decade,” Rozanski said. “This is the Rider way, and it evokes my often-repeated mantra that I’d rather be at Rider than anywhere else.”

While economic, demographic and competitive forces have combined to build a difficult environment for student recruitment at institutions across the nation, Rider has managed to remain an attractive choice for potential students. But enrollment and financial aid programs create a challenging financial dynamic for the University.

“Students’ need for financial aid has increased dramatically at Rider, by almost $24 million dollars, or more than 88 percent since 2004,” said Rozanski, pointing to the fact that the University now commits more than $50 million a year to support its students, 95 percent of whom receive some form of financial assistance. “It addresses our continuing efforts to slow the rate of growth in student debt, which we take very seriously.”

Even with those efforts, however, he noted that new student enrollment will be lower this year, though it remains well ahead of the totals from just five years ago; and fewer students (particularly fewer students living on campus) means less revenue.

Rider’s increased focus on financial aid to maintain enrollment numbers also heightens the importance of fundraising.  In that regard, the 2011-12 fiscal year was a successful one, Rozanski revealed. Total gifts and pledges for the year reached $11.4 million, an 84 percent jump from the previous year, and an institutional record. That includes a 3 percent rise in the Annual Fund, which raised $1.56 million. Support for student scholarships increased 33 percent for the year, to $2.5 million.

Alumni engagement was also resurgent, with attendance up 28 percent at the Lawrenceville campus’ Reunion Weekend, and Westminster Choir College’s reunion activities showing a 17 percent increase. In all, there were 139 alumni events over the course of the year, as far afield as Arizona, California, Florida, Texas, South Carolina, Philadelphia, Georgia and Washington, D.C.

A host of facilities enhancement projects were also completed on both campuses during the last academic year, highlighted by North Hall, Kaplan Plaza, the Performing Arts addition to the Bart Luedeke Center, the renovation of the dining halls on both campuses as well as Cranberry’s and the new parking lot on the Westminster Choir College campus.

“These projects, along with the University’s innovation agenda to create new academic programs, have Rider poised to remain an attractive destination for prospective students,” Rozanski said. “Ultimately, I have every confidence that our shared belief in being student centered and the compelling need to maintain affordability and access to a Rider education will help us make the right choices to continue our progress going forward.”