GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — When Kirk Knutsen, Stockton Class of 1979, arrived back on campus last week to help his freshmen twins Courtney and Brooke move into their dorm, he couldn’t believe how the campus had changed.
“The new student center is outrageous,” the Lyndhurst, Bergen County resident said, recalling his days on the then bare-bones campus. “It’s a great school, even better than when I was here.”
The campus has changed during the last 33 years, most recently undergoing a $225 million renovation and expansion that has taken the college beyond its 1,600-acre rural Galloway campus.
In July 2007, the college board of trustees approved master plan revisions that included a hotel and conference center, private homes for faculty and graduate students, a student center and even an academic village with retail shops and a geriatric research center and housing.
Five years later the “college in the pines” now owns the nearby Seaview Resort, has an impressive new campus center, and has built and rented eight private homes near the main campus.
Stockton’s enrollment will exceed 9,000 undergraduate and graduate students this year. Its 2012-13 budget will exceed $200 million for the first time.
Total budget growth — more than 60 percent in the last five years, according to a review by The Press of Atlantic City — reflects the expansion of the college in enrollment, physical size and ambition.
It also demonstrates a statewide trend of relying less on state funding and more on private, entrepreneurial and student-generated revenue.
The almost $208 million budget includes new instructional sites in Hammonton and Manahawkin, as well as operations at Dante Hall and the Carnegie building in Atlantic City and the Sam Azeez Museum of Woodbine Heritage in Cape May County. The Seaview Resort in Galloway Township, purchased for $12 million in 2010, is expected to generate more than $21 million in gross revenue this year.
On the main campus, a new $40 million science building will be completed this academic year. The cost to pay back the more than $255 million borrowed by the college over the last several years is $18.5 million this year, but has now peaked, President Herman J. Saatkamp said.
“We were so far behind our needs,” said Saatkamp, citing a 2005 space analysis that called for almost 428,000 square feet in new classroom and office space. That need will be met with the completion of a new science building next spring, where Knutsen’s daughters, both biology majors, will be able to take advantage of the state-of-the-art facility.
The economic recession has given public colleges a chance to show they can compete with private institutions at a lower cost. Paul Shelly, spokesman for the New Jersey Association of Colleges and Universities, said less state aid and the recession have forced colleges to think of new ways to generate revenue beyond raising tuition.
Shelly said state colleges have been sustained through the recession by strong enrollment growth as more students stayed in state. But, he said, they have also thought in more businesslike and entrepreneurial terms. A new state law allowing public/private partnerships can help the colleges expand at lesser cost.
“Our niche today is value,” Shelly said. “But the colleges also had to build the facilities to show they could compete with private colleges. You can’t have high school students coming in and saying they have better science labs at their high schools.”
Charles Ingram is the college’s new vice president for finance; he came from the University of Arizona and serves on the board of the National Association of College and University Business Officials.
He said he was attracted to Stockton because the college had been proactive in its growth, setting up an investment fund almost immediately after Saatkamp was hired in 2003 that has grown to almost $100 million. Funds from the investment account were used to buy Seaview and fund about $16 million of the new science building. Revenue from the investment fund also accounts for about $4 million of the operating budget.
“Most new vice presidents are coming into cash problems,” Ingram said. “This college has been set up to be fiscally sound.”
The operating budget for the college makes up $146 million of the total, with half that amount dedicated directly to academic costs. Stockton will spend about $17,500 to educate a student this year, just slightly more than the average $17,350 the state’s public schools spent per student on PreK-12 education in 2011-12.
What has shifted the most during the past five years is who pays the cost.
Direct state aid to Stockton has dropped 20 percent, from almost $25 million to just less than $20 million even as enrollment increased. The state now provides $3,000 per student in direct state aid to Stockton, down from $4,000 in 2007-08.
Undergraduate student tuition and fees have increased 23 percent in the last five years and, with enrollment growth, the revenue from undergraduates has increased more than 50 percent. While comparatively small, the college’s expanding graduate programs have produced revenue growth of more than 140 percent. Overall, tuition and fees make up 67 percent, or two out of every three dollars in the operating budget, while state aid makes up 23 percent.
Stockton has addressed the increasing cost with increased scholarships — almost $12.7 million for 2012-13, more than three times what was awarded five years ago. Last year, 85 percent of full-time students got some financial aid, up from 77 percent five years ago.
Provost Harvey Kesselman said Stockton is becoming more selective and attracting a higher caliber of student. The college has added new programs designed to meet modern job needs, including a nursing degree and additional specialized teacher certifications to help teachers become more marketable.
“We have a growth agenda to keep more students in state,” Kesselman said.
The budget to fund academic programs, at almost $76 million, is the largest item in the budget and has grown 36 percent over five years.
Salaries and benefits, which for faculty are negotiated and partially funded by the state, make up 69 percent of those funds, which includes new positions at Dante Hall, Manahawkin and Hammonton. Like many colleges, Stockton is using more part-time, or adjunct faculty, which have increased 44 percent from 189 to 273 people in the last five years. But most undergraduate courses are taught by the 273 full-time professors and the college has a student-faculty ratio of 17.5:1, down from 19:1 five years ago.
The growth agenda also calls for more marketing, which is not just recruiting students, but also promoting Stockton’s role and contributions to the community through events, publications and the college’s website. The so-called External Affairs division has a budget of $3 million, and another $1.6 million is spent on fundraising, a relatively new but growing area among public colleges. Stockton’s endowment has grown from $8 million in 2008 to $21 million in 2011.
“It’s about building a sense of community,” said Sharon Schulman, assistant to the vice president for external affairs. “We want to make people more aware of Stockton and what we do.”
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