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DeVos’ effect on William Paterson University is “Too early to tell” –President Waldron President Waldron’s Reaction to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos

By: Alissa Lopez – Editor-in-Chief

Funding, affordability, and higher education regulation are among President Waldron’s top concerns for William Paterson University under the DeVos administration.

Despite being a strong supporter of increasing public funding for private and for-profit schools with questionable ties to the student loan industry, DeVos is now the caretaker of almost 100,000 public schools and nearly 2,000 public colleges and universities across the country, including William Paterson University.

“I was disappointed that the candidates for the secretary were not more experienced with public education,” Waldron said.

A 2017 story in US News & World Report actually criticizes DeVos for being the least experienced secretary of education in history.

President Waldron hopes that national support for government and federal agencies that support research and education and scholarship and grant programs will continue under the new administration.

“They are important additions to our culture and higher education in general,” Waldron said.

The bulk of faculty and student research at William Paterson is funded partially by these organizations like the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Fulbright Program and partially by the university.

DeVos now has control over a trillion-dollar budget for higher education as well as all student loans. A 2017 story in the Washington Post said that the Higher Education Act, which governs the student loan program, would be reauthorized under her administration.

“How student loans are handled are on the top of many people’s minds,” Waldron said.

College affordability is important for many students amid rising tuition costs and student debt. It’s also a chief focus for President Waldron at William Paterson.

The university administration continues to take various initiatives to keep higher education affordable for students including a reduction in the number of credits needed to graduate from 128 to 120 and fundraising efforts which have increased from $300,000 a year in 2010 when Waldron became president to $1 million in alumni and donor scholarships every year.

Tuition and student fees do continue to rise yearly but at a steady average of 1.7 or 2.0 percent for the last five years, which Waldron said is the cost of inflation. This increase is much lower than previous years where tuition and student fee rates would rise between 4 and 5 percent each year.

And despite $11 million of tuition remission, scholarships and room grants awarded each year, the average WPU student graduates with nearly $27,000 in debt.

“We know students are struggling to pay. Our job is to figure out how to make that goal of completing a degree the goal of a student even when sometimes they struggle financially to do it,” Waldron said.

Some of that job comes down to better business practice.

Waldron’s administration has recently taken advantage of lower interest rates by refinancing institutional bond debt. Verizon is also renting antenna towers on the university water tower. This translates to saving hundreds of thousands of dollars every year and the creation of additional revenue streams.

These initiatives help William Paterson University maintain a standard of education including small class sizes and affordability as well as overall support for students and faculty. President Waldron hopes to maintain these standards under DeVos’ administration.

President Waldron and other members of the American Council of Education and various national associations of education have offered agenda items and recommendations to the education secretary. One of the recommendations includes preserving the accrediting bodies which peer evaluate and regionally accredit universities across the country.

The Trump administration has pledged to disband accrediting bodies and have the government regulate higher education institutions instead, according to a 2017 story in the Washington Post. Waldron disagrees because these bodies maintain the standards of higher education that have credited the US with the best universities and the best education system in the world.

Though it’s “too early to tell” the effect that DeVos will have on higher education, the recommendations for the secretary of education are “based upon our expertise, knowledge of the industry and where we see student needs going and [we] hope that some of those recommendations will be heeded and taken under consideration,” Waldron said.

 

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