December 9, 2016

I met with President Dell’Omo on Friday afternoon. Below is the information he gave me.

These are just my notes. Let me know if you need clarification on something. I don’t have answers to the points he makes, though. Just passing along information…

MEETING WITH DELL’OMO

2 – 4 million deficit each year at WCC

A lot of money had been donated/fundraised as one-time donations not intended for an endowment (basically three big gifts). Once this money is used it’s gone. This money had helped mask the operating deficit. When you look at the final number, the deficits were a lot smaller than the figure above, because those monies helped to mask the operating deficit. There were even a few years when there was no deficit from WCC. There is very little left to these gifts – a few hundred thousand.

WCC 10-11% of University size (students and revenue).

Overall university deficit projected 10 mil + range every year.

Many of these gifts were given to solve an immediate problem, but the money has run out. If it had been put into an endowment, 5% of it could have been spent annually while the principal grew.

Goal is to stabilize and put monies like this in an endowment so these financial issues don’t keep arising.

Enrollment at WCC is fine. Operating costs are high due to it being a music education – lots of one on one teaching. Salaries are very high due to very strong faculty union.

Maintenance on facilities about 9 million at WCC (not sure of time frame on this and I got the feeling he didn’t like the fact that the buildings were old due to the amount of attention they require).

Recently, the faculty union gave salary and other contract concessions due to prospective cut of 14 programs. This didn’t solve the problem but slowed things down.

Piano has low enrollment. Organ is lower.
Only 3 undergraduate organ students. 6-10 graduate students.

Talked about revenue sharing. Some programs have a high enrollment, others do not. But if it fits into your mission, you keep it because it’s part of the curriculum. That’s why universities keep music programs (they don’t make money). Large programs (Eastman etc.) have billions of dollars in endowments.

Even though WCC deficit is relatively small, the projected 11 mil University year after year is unsustainable. Talking about long term survival of University – not just WCC.

Lawrenceville campus issues: Live and die on enrollment. General demographics show that the number of high school graduates is dropping in the US. “Why would I go to Rider vs. Rutgers etc?” we are competing for a smaller pool of students. We can’t compete on price or facilities. Much more of a value proposition on state schools. Price became much more important after the recession. Parents used to use home equity loans to pay for kid’s education. Can’t do it anymore. Price is much more important now than it was.

Facilities, programming, cost vs. state schools. Rider can’t compete. Must raise more scholarship dollars for students to come here.

I said that I thought WCC education was 60-70 % “who”, and the remainder “where”. I spoke about the inspiration in the buildings from all of the historical events and people there. I asked “What can the alumni do to help?”

Response:
Just started study process. A lot of people jump to conclusion that it’s a done deal. Gotta make sure people understand the nature of the problem we are up against. Let the process complete itself. He said he received many eloquent emails. But right now they need to examine what all of the components are and scenarios they are looking at.

It doesn’t make it easier when it goes public, alumni included. Asks for time and patience. Decision not made till Spring on campus consolidation. There will definitely be changes. Will need to talk as a community, both internal and external, about what those changes are.

How can we make the Westminster College of the Arts (both campuses) as world class as possible? WCA (both campuses) is now as large as WCC, up from 0 in 2006. Includes music theater, dance, art.

2006 study said to keep two campus model but create WCA in Lawrenceville.

Music theater is the true national program – draws from all over country. WCC is more regional.

Stabilize finances and invest in the growth of the University.

Must get more aggressive in science, engineering, and technology. New comp science program next year. Other area is WCA – wants this to be growth area. Believes there is potential to create something like NYU or Carnegie Melon. But we are only focusing on the individual pieces right now (WCC), and need to focus on the whole.

If designing school from scratch, would all be on one campus.

Does not want short term decisions. Doesn’t want this to come up again.

Dissolution – while he wants to keep WCC, the idea of selling WCC (separating from Rider) is part of the study. Best chance of building WCA is with WCC, not pulling apart and going to another university. Better chance of raising reputation of all of Rider with WCC.

Said if any other institution wanted WCC, would most likely move it.

Said some faculty may not go if we move. Understands the passion of the campus, but is it really the faculty that makes the place what it is? If you had a choice, do you keep the campus or keep the faculty?

Price Waterhouse not running the study, just doing the number crunching. Rider doesn’t have the personnel for some of the analysis. The study is being run by Rider University. Chairman of Trustees is retired from PW.

As part of analysis, every gift agreement given to WCC is being looked at. Some have certain conditions. Does the U have complete control of the fund, even if it goes to one campus, or does it require the donor to approve that the money is used differently? etc… Each agreement is different, based on the donors. Some of the old ones are not specific so University can do what they want with them.

I expressed that alumni would love to help if there is a way to keep the campus open.

Wants us to let the process move forward. Said we are nowhere near it happening yet. I said it hurts that this is coming up again and that we want to find a way to just solve the problem and be done with it. He said unless we start to look at things differently that he is very concerned about the welfare and sustainability of Rider University as a whole. He’s hoping that we don’t make short term decisions. Must get whole University on much more solid foundation.

I asked “what does selling the campus do for this fix? Seems like a band aid.” Said there is value to that question.

Said Rider has not leveraged the success of Westminster Choir College for Rider University. WCA was good idea to tie them together. Other university presidents have no idea WCC is part of Rider. Huge disconnect. So there will be many changes whether one or two campus model.

He spoke with Drew and Yale and they said they wouldn’t keep it in Princeton. (I don’t know when this conversation took place or if they were speaking of 1990s or now)

First meeting of committee with information was on 12/9/16. All previous meetings discussed process.