Affordability a Key Concern at Georgian Court University
Op-ed by Dr. Joseph R. Marbach
President, Georgian Court Unviersity
Just a few days ago, high school seniors across the country took a huge, collective next step. May 1, recognized nationally as College Decision Day, was an exciting day of great pride as students declared where they want to go.
As president of Georgian Court University (and as a father to a high school senior), I know the excitement and buzz College Decision Day generated on Facebook and Snapchat are just the beginning. Parents and families are far more focused on how they can afford college, and whether students will be mired in loans after graduation.
Nationally, student debt averages are reported differently, with figures hovering between $30,000 and $37,000. There are outliers who take on far more, and those who will pay substantially less.
Focus on Solutions
At GCU, we believe in being accessible and accountable to those seeking a degree. That means being solution-oriented in our approach to helping students manage college debt.
How? For the 2016-2017 academic year, we are freezing tuition and will provide more than $15 million in financial aid assistance, including donor scholarships and institutional grants. These dollars will be supplemented by federal and state programs like New Jersey’s Tuition Aid Grant, the state’s Equal Opportunity Fund, federal Pell grants, and campus work-study. This means most GCU undergraduates will pay much less than our annual tuition rate of $31,618. In fact, by some measures, such as the federal College Scorecard, a GCU education is more affordable than one at Rutgers, Rowan, or Stockton University.
One of the biggest hidden costs of college is time, especially when it takes more than four years to complete a degree.
Nationally, some majors have regulatory requirements that demand a fifth year of study, costing students more money to complete a degree. New Jersey’s recently revised requirements for teacher certification comes to mind as one example. As universities, we can work harder to keep students on track to graduation.
GCU is home to an award-winning retention program called Chart the Course that offers a few free summer and winter courses to eligible students, keeping them on track for completing 30 credits in their first year. This year, new writing and math labs are reducing the time some students spend in noncredit, remedial courses that can also slow their progress.
A new focus on academic advising and faculty-student mentoring are making a difference, as are several new scholarships—especially for high-achieving students in area Catholic high schools. Our community college partnerships provide substantial scholarships for transfer students to complete a bachelor’s degree, and we offer college-level courses to juniors and seniors at Central Regional High School and other sites. These pre-college credits allow students the opportunity to finish their university degree in less than four years.
Earning a college degree in today’s global economy is important, and at Georgian Court—as at many colleges across the country—we remain strongly committed to increasing the accessibility and affordability of college for students and their families.
A version of this editorial appeared in the Asbury Park Press, 5/10/2016