In February, this writer appeared at a legislative hearing on the closing of New Jersey’s developmental centers that was held at Montclair State University. Before the hearing began, Dr. Susan Coleman, President of the University, spoke to the assembled audience. In her remarks, Dr. Coleman euphorically mentioned the ever growing campus, where tens of millions of dollars have been spent in recent years on new construction. In fact, the campus has grown exponentially to the point where it has doubled its size over the past two decades,
What Dr. Coleman did not mention, however, was the financial burden that this growth has placed on students, who will pay for it. The state colleges in New Jersey have increased their tuition each year well ahead of the pace of inflation. For New Jersey residents, costs can be as much as $26, 000 per year for students who live on campus.
Let’s think about that! That’s in excess of $100, 000 over four years.
Out-of-state students will be faced with costs of more than $34,000 per year, or more than $144,000 over a four year period.
Let’s think about this further! Montclair State is an excellent school but it is not Harvard, Yale or Princeton. It is a public college that once was affordable. In fact, during the 1960’s tuition was less than $100 per semester. When this writer was an undergraduate student at another New Jersey public college in the 1960’s, tuition was $75 per semester. The state colleges were designed to allow every New Jerseyan to attend without going into debt. Today, students face a lifetime of debt, following graduation. Many students, who are aspiring doctors, lawyers, or scientists will forgo graduate school, since they are so mired in debt from their undergraduate education. In essence, the ‘American Dream’ has ended for them.
Dr. Coleman’s comments, although well-intentioned, omitted an important issue: It is nice to show off the beautiful campus, but the students are paying for it. Dr. Coleman has forgotten that the campus and the university are not where our responsibility lies; it is with the students. To put it simply, the university is here for the students; the students are not here for the university.
Decisions made regarding campus growth are invariably made by the offspring of upper middle class families who cannot relate to students who are struggling to survive, economically. We have abandoned them out of our own selfish needs and self-aggrandizement.