Declining student enrollment is an issue across the US, and acutely felt in the northeast. Today’s case in point concerns New Jersey, where many private institutions are seeing student numbers decline. Meanwhile, larger and public schools are gaining. Perhaps this is a representative story pointing to developments impacting the nation as a whole.
Some of the state’s smallest colleges have been the hardest hit. The College of Saint Elizabeth, a Catholic college in Morristown, saw its enrollment drop nearly 35 percent between 2009 and 2014, according to data compiled by the state Office of the Secretary of Higher Education.
The declines were similar at Georgian Court University (down 24 percent), Centenary College (down 21 percent), Drew University (down 21 percent), Rider University (down 12 percent) and most of the small and mid-size private colleges, according to the data.
Those are very large numbers. They led Rider to commit a queen sacrifice, axing a fourteen full-time faculty and closing thirteen programs. The distribution is unsurprising:
Majors that will be eliminated beginning next fall are art and art history, advertising, American studies, business education, French, geosciences, German, marine science, philosophy, piano and web design. The bachelor of arts program in economics and the graduate program in organizational leadership will also be eliminated.
And yet student numbers aren’t down at all campuses. “Seton Hall University, Monmouth University and Fairleigh Dickinson University held steady or had small decreases, according to the data.” In fact,
enrollment at Princeton University and Stevens Institute of Technology, the state’s top-ranked private colleges, both saw healthy increases of more than 6 percent between 2009 and 2014.
Saint Peter’s University, which recently gained university status, and Pillar College, a small Christian college that opened a new campus in Newark, were also able to increase enrollment over the same time period…
Does this mean we’re seeing a broad shift in student preferences, migrating from small to large institutions? Heyboer doesn’t give us total state enrollment figures, so we can’t tell if the total picture is of decline, or a wash, as numbers move from one group of schools to another. To what extent are Princeton, Pillar, et al winning new students from beyond the state’s borders?
Rider’s president doesn’t think this is a local issue.
“This is a national trend. There is no question about it,” [Rider president] Dell’Omo said. “Schools are all going through this and trying to tighten their belts and really allocate their resources in the most efficient ways possible.”
(thanks to Jeff Benton for the link, and Wikipedia for the map)