February 27, 2005

State colleges finding new ways to add cash
By DIANE D’AMICO Education Writer, (609) 272-7241

Summer rental housing near the shore rarely goes on sale.

But students taking summer courses at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey are being offered a 20 percent price break on campus housing. The Board of Trustees this month approved the rate cut from $25 to $20 per day as an incentive to get more students to take summer courses and live on campus.

"It's foolish to have the rooms empty all summer if we can increase usage," Stockton Board of Trustees Chairman Gerald Weinstein said.

Normally a quiet season, the summer has become a growing revenue source for the college, budgeted to generate about $2.9 million in fiscal 2005.

As state aid for higher education remains stagnant, the state's two- and four-year public colleges have been aggressively seeking ways to fund their budgets beyond just raising tuition. It's a new area for them, and strategies have followed both a business model of cutting costs and developing new products, and the non-profit model of fund-raising and endowments.

"Most of the public colleges are really novices at doing large fund-raising campaigns," said Paul Shelly, spokesman for the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities. "But they have to raise more money themselves so they won't have to raise it all through tuition."

Stockton has a diverse group of endeavors. New graduate degree programs meet local demand and can be held at night, providing new revenue within existing facilities. Leasing land to Verizon for a cellular tower will generate a minimum $20,000 a year.

One of the most successful Stockton endeavors has been the Southern Regional Institute and Educational Technology Training Center, which offers training to thousands of educators every year and last year generated about $740,000 in gross revenue. Last year it moved to its own site in Mays Landing.

"It's about creating new markets," said Harvey Kesselman, a former Stockton vice president who now has the more businesslike title of chief executive officer of the SRI. "Education is a business, too. Sometimes we do look at it from an ivory tower, but it is a huge industry and we have to find our niche."

That model also is being used at the Carnegie Library site in Atlantic City, and is being expanded into potential partnerships with casinos.

"These are areas that do not compete with the traditional undergraduate mission of the college, but complement it," Kesselman said.

Rowan University has been actively seeking research grants and now bring in more than $7 million a year, President Donald Farish said. The college also partners with area industries to fund its engineering clinics.

Cumberland County College recently contracted with Barnes & Noble to run its bookstore, generating revenue for the college, and competitive book prices for students. Programs like the aquaculture center and the new conference center are expected to become self-supporting.

"We can't just talk about expenses when we do a budget," CCC President Kenneth Ender said. "We have to talk about revenue."

Atlantic Cape Community College has become a leader in online education, offering about 128 courses, which have generated about $6.5 million since 1997. About 15 percent of the college's enrollment is now online, and 427 armed services personnel worldwide are earning ACCC degrees through the e-ArmyU program.

"Online courses have been our greatest new revenue generator," Vice President for Academic Affairs Agnes Armao said. The statewide online tuition is slightly higher than ACCC's campus tuition, and the courses don't require a classroom.

The greatest source of steady revenue, however, is also the most difficult. Permanent endowments are the gifts that keep on giving, nationally earning an average 15 percent in 2004.

Private colleges have always relied on gifts. Princeton has the nation's fourth largest endowment, $10 billion. Rutgers is 112th nationally at almost $450 million. A recent Drew University alumni magazine interview with outgoing president and former Gov. Thomas Kean listed first among a long list of accomplishments that he had tripled the college's endowment to more than $200 million.

"An endowment today is the most important way a college can raise money," Rowan University President Donald Farish said. Blessed with a $100 million gift from industrialist Henry Rowan, the college followed up with a successful capital campaign and now has an endowment of about $140 million. Four percent of that is put into the operating budget, about $5.6 million for next year.

"Today all colleges, not just the private ones, need it to subsidize the cost of education," Farish said.

Stockton's Weinstein agreed, saying, "The most significant change for New Jersey is the recognition that external fund-raising is an absolute necessity."

Weinstein said he can remember when the public colleges almost discouraged private fund-raising for fear it would simply give state officials a reason to cut state aid.

"They cut the state aid anyway," Weinstein said.

Public colleges nationally have become more aggressive in their fundraising, said Rae Goldsmith, vice president for communications and marketing for the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education.

"Endowments were never meant to replace state aid," she said, "but they can make a difference in the margin of excellence for what a school can provide."

A primary job criteria for the new presidents of both Stockton and ACCC was the ability to do community outreach and fundraising. Both colleges have had success generating funds for scholarships, but now want to expand to more traditional endowments. Stockton is planning a large capital campaign, and ACCC plans to tie fund-raising to the opening of the new Cape May County campus.

Goldsmith warns that most efforts begin small and do not generate instant results.

"People don't realize how long it takes to build those relationships," she said. "But they are critical to the long-term effort."

To e-mail Diane D'Amico at The Press:

DDamico@pressofac.com