As we wrote last week, Rutgers-Camden and Rutgers-Newark are facing an enrollment crisis. As of mid-August, total enrollment (both first-year and transfer students) is down by 27 percent at Camden and 8 percent at Newark, but is up 5 percent in New Brunswick, thanks to a 10 percent increase in first-year enrollment.
Following this revelation, the Philadelphia Inquirer published an excellent report quoting several of our members and describing in greater detail the possible source of the enrollment disparities by campus. We encourage you to share this article with your colleagues, discuss it, and highlight this issue in work meetings.
Last Friday, we received a response to our letter to President Holloway asking him directly about the cause of the crisis and what the administration will do to address it. See below for President Holloway’s response, which included an attachment showing enrollment data that confirms the figures we cited (click here to see the data).
In his response, President Holloway expressed concern about the crisis and implied it was the result of a national decline in enrollment. But that doesn’t explain the drastic differences in campus enrollment rates. And while it’s true that transfer student enrollment is down at all three campuses, this didn’t offset the sharp increase in first-year enrollment at New Brunswick, apparently at Camden’s and Newark’s expense. Our questions remain about what caused this crisis and what immediate measures the administration will take. We will communicate this to President Holloway.
We will work with the administration to find equitable solutions to this crisis, but we need to know how and why it happened. Addressing issues like this is just one part of our campaign for a strong contract. If you haven’t already, click here to get involved so we can win our demands for #TheRutgersWeDeserve.
Rebecca Givan, President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Todd Wolfson, General Vice President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Jim Brown, Camden Chapter President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Manu Chander, Newark Chapter President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Donna Murch, New Brunswick Chapter President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Letter from President Holloway about the Enrollment Crisis
Dear Rutgers AAUP-AFT Leadership,
Thank you for your letter. Like you, the Rutgers administration is concerned about the current enrollment numbers for new students in Camden and Newark, which are related to a number of factors, certainly including the impact of the pandemic and the trends in college enrollment across the country over the past several years.
It is important to understand that enrollment numbers are still fluid, and we do not close the books on enrollment for the fall semester until several weeks into the semester. I am attaching a spreadsheet [click here to see the spreadsheet] that compares the last four years of mid-August incoming student enrollment and shows the one-year differences from fall 2021, both university-wide and by campus. As you will see, while overall first-year enrollment is up slightly, our incoming transfer student population is lower than last year across all campuses. This is certainly an area of concern for us, as transfer students make up a vital part of our community.
The university is taking steps to address these shifts in enrollment, including moving toward adoption of the common application to make it easier to apply to Rutgers and continuing with our test-optional admissions practices.
Regarding class-by-class enrollments, these are questions of educational judgment. Chancellor Cantor and Chancellor Tillis have made clear to me that they and their deans are committed to avoiding any disruption for students in terms of graduating or meeting requirement so they can keep on a path to completing their degrees in time. At the same time, it would not be appropriate to issue a mandate that every class should be run regardless of enrollment.
I have been on record as saying that we need to recognize the resource issues that exist both in Camden and Newark. I have also made it very clear that our goal is and must be student success and, to the greatest extent possible, that we help our students graduate on time. Indeed, this vital work is happening on all our campuses, including participation in national projects to ensure equity in helping students on the pathway to and through college and our programs to make Rutgers tuition-free for New Jersey students with family incomes under $65,000. These commitments remain as true as ever, and we will manage the impact of our final enrollment and tuition numbers with them in mind.
Finally, I must take strong exception to your suggestion that any of our students are second-class. A Rutgers student is a Rutgers student and part of a community of scholars that takes pride in the achievements of every student on every campus.
President & University Professor
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey