By Sara Douglass
William Paterson University President Kathleen Waldron highlighted her thoughts on the importance of college affordability along with other hopes for the spring 2017 semester at her address last Thursday.
“I have spent quite a bit of time talking to individuals about ways that college can be more affordable without decreasing quality,” Waldron said.
Waldron acknowledged that with the past year’s presidential election higher education and its affordability was moved to center stage, more so than in other years. She stated that student debt has reached an estimate of $1 trillion across the country. Although the average debt for students at WPU has decreased in recent years, it is still around $26 thousand, which Waldron considers too much of a financial burden for students to carry.
“There are some ideas on the floor of the state legislature that we are not in favor of, that we think might be detrimental to quality education overall, and we will continue to speak out about those issues,” she said.
Yearly tuition increases at William Paterson have been historically low averaging less than 2 percent and according to Waldron, will continue this pattern for the foreseeable future.
With faculty and staff packed into the University Commons Ballroom, Waldron suggested ways to increase the graduation rate. Her ideas included early alert, enforcing that students declare a major at the completion of 45 credits, proper course scheduling and sequencing and using advisors as resources.
“When I started this discussion several years ago it was something that we had not focused on, but when William Paterson University people put themselves behind an effort to move a statistic, we do it,” Waldron said.
The university president said the four-year graduation rate has risen dramatically over the past six years from a low of 14% to 29% but is still lower than other universities. Another 52% of students graduate within six years, lining up with the national norm.
“It’s important for students to know that there are paths that can guide them through their major and that if they plan carefully … there is no reason that they can’t finish in four,” Waldron said.
When the topic of this past year’s presidential election arose, Waldron spoke out about new pressures the university may experience from the federal level as new administration takes power in Washington. She expressed worry that maintaining course content and current curriculum will only become more challenging in the next couple of years.
“We must be mindful and deliberate of where we position William Paterson University to meet some of these challenges ahead.”
Waldron also referenced the T-shirts given to the faculty by their union as they entered the address. The blue shirts, worn by a large majority of professors in the ballroom, read, “I Make A Difference Every Day.”
“I know I don’t have to tell you, but you do make a difference for these students every day,” Waldron stated.