Major Cuts Happen at Rider University

NJ Spotlight News | October 30, 2015 | Education
The cuts will save the university $2 million a year, as they try to close a budget gap.

By Briana Vannozzi

“It was a bit of a shock,” said senior Jason Zoblin. “It was a bit of a shock.”

That was the reaction today at Rider University after the administration announced the school will slash 14 majors, move three others down to a minor and layoff 14 full-time faculty due to budget cuts.

“I had no idea until they sent out the email yesterday, so it was a surprise to me,” said junior Ryan Yeates.

Students say they were blindsided by the move, which the university says should save $2 million a year annually as the school tries to close a $7.5 million budget hole.

“We all made our class schedules this past week and they only told us yesterday,” said Yeates, “so people made classes and majors that aren’t there any more.”

Among the cut programs were advertising, American studies, business education, the economics B.A., web design and several arts programs that will affect more than 300 students.

“These are not what one would call fringe areas of an institution,” said Jeffery Halpern.

Halpern is with Rider’s teacher’s union. He says student enrollment has been down for about five or six years. He says that students and faculty were never consulted about the cuts.

“This morning alone I’ve had a number of students in my office asking ‘what am I supposed to do,'” Halpern said.

The university declined our request for an interview, instead sending an emailing explaining that while current juniors and seniors will be able to complete a degree in their chosen major: “academic coordinators will help freshman and sophomores to evaluate their options and make decisions that are best for them moving forward…and provide outplacement and other support services to assist faculty and staff in their transition.”

“I expect what they’ll do is try to bring in brand new people at the adjunct level. They will make make accommodations, which means students will be allowed to waive some requirements and substitute courses and effectively downgrade the quality of the degree,” Halpern said.

We found one student that will be affected. “I have to talk to my advisors to see exactly what’s going to happen. Right now I’m thinking my choices are to either change my major, which I don’t want to do, or transfer.”

“My philosophy teacher is directly affected. She knows someone who is getting let go. Just seeing the class environment with that made me feel like I had to do something,” Kenny Dillon said.

Sophomore Dillon started a petition late yesterday afternoon. He’s collected nearly a hundred signatures, and is hoping for a couple hundred more today.

“To me in a school cutting programs is the last thing you want to do, and this affects almost 300 kids,” Dillon said.

“Certainly all of the colleges, not just in New Jersey, but around the country are faced with the thought that there are fewer traditional college aged students coming out of high school right nowe,” said John Wilson, President and CEO of the New Jersey Association for Independent Colleges and Universities.

“It is not a crisis that requires action without consultation,” Halpern said.

Morale is down and petitions are being circulated as students and faculty ask for a seat at the table, hoping its not too late to scale back these cuts.