Higher education can always be more affordable
By Paul Drayton President, Rowan College at Burlington County

9/25/16

I often talk about the affordability crisis in higher education and I keep the September edition of Inside Jersey on my desk because of its straightforward cover story: College Debt is Killing My Future.


It’s no secret to any student, parent or spouse who has paid a tuition bill that college costs too much. In the past decade, college tuition and fees have increased 63 percent — even during one of the worst economic times for our country. The cost of textbooks has grown even more outrageously — 88 percent since 2006, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor.

College is simply unaffordable for far too many, which is why I’m so proud that Rowan College at Burlington County (RCBC) had the most affordable tuition and fees rate in New Jersey last year and refused to increase those costs this year.

We remain affordable as an institution for many reasons —most importantly because of the support our students receive from the Burlington County Board of Freeholders. The board has doubled the county’s commitment to fund education while embracing innovative shared services agreements that have allowed us to improve services and save taxpayers and students millions of dollars.

We remain affordable to all individuals thanks to our RCBC Foundation, which has awarded more than $2 million in scholarships since 2009 in meeting our shared goal of helping all students afford college.

Our commitment to affordability will soon expand with a new “3+1” option that allows students to complete their junior-year courses with RCBC before completing a bachelor’s degree with Rowan University with a 15 percent tuition discount on our campus. This option allows students to save $75,000 on a high-quality bachelor’s degree and was included among Money Magazine’s top affordability initiatives in the country.

The vision Rowan University president Ali Houshmand and I share for high-quality affordable education was why we were invited to a roundtable discussion hosted by Congressman Donald Norcross, D-1st of Camden.

The most important voices at the table were those of students and parents, who are victimized by the high costs of college that burdens students with lifelong debt that affects their quality of life in a number of ways including their ability to purchase homes and even have long-term relationships.

(Yes, 44 percent of Americans with student debt want to know how much debt someone has before engaging in a long-term relationship; 12 percent actually delay marriage, according to a Consumer Reports National Research Study.)

The good news, as I mentioned previously, is that Rowan College at Burlington County, in partnership with Rowan University, has a solution to graduate college without high student debt, which was a featured point of discussion at the college affordability roundtable.

Student Government Association President Christina Cover joined us that day and spoke eloquently about the pressures she faced when choosing to attend RCBC. She has thrived in her studies while being immersed in a number of campus-life experiences. Most importantly, because of the scholarships she received at RCBC and her own hard work, she is going graduate this May without owing anyone a dime for her education.

In a few weeks, we will gather to celebrate stories of student success that are possible because of generous donors who support our students through the RCBC Foundation in its annual Celebration of Philanthropy luncheon.

Last year, we heard from Christine Louis, a Mount Laurel mother who was struggling to support her two children through several part-time jobs until she began studying radiography at RCBC empowered by Foundation scholarships. Today, she works full time at a hospital, can pay her bills and has time to enjoy her children’s sporting events while continuing toward her bachelor’s degree.

We can help more students like Christine, so I encourage everyone to give the gift of education by supporting the eighth annual Celebration of Philanthropy. Visit rcbc.edu/foundation for tickets and sponsorship opportunities.