To the lively sound of Van Halen, President Cindy Jebb began her second State of the College Address on Wednesday, Feb 16. She gave a collection of thanks to members of the Ramapo community, including the board of trustees, residence life, public safety and facilities management.
Throughout her address, Jebb continually placed emphasis on values of empathy, trust and vulnerability as means of bettering the community. She took time to acknowledge many recent successes at the college, from the arts to athletics to scholarship.
While sharing many strengths, she also took note of the areas of improvement still necessary at Ramapo. One of the issues students face is loan debt, which can be seen on the annual College Scorecard. She recognized that cost is one of many factors that make up accessibility to education.
“Cost is a driving factor for our students and their families,” Jebb said. “We have an obligation to ensure that Ramapo College education is delivering on its promise, delivering the highest quality education, be it affordable and accessible."
She made note of the recently established Garden State Guarantee, which outlines requirements to make the third and fourth year of college free for some students. Jebb said with this program in place, it is Ramapo’s responsibility to find ways to ease the cost of the first and second years as well.
"In this competitive environment we cannot just wait and watch the impact of this legislation and continue to conduct business as usual,” Jebb said. “We must treat this program as an invitation to think and do differently."
Ramapo is also expanding its access to education by creating “an additional instructional location at Morris Union Jointure Commission (MUJC) to deliver approved teacher education programs.” The program is an accelerated post-baccalaureate for Teaching Assistants to obtain different teaching certifications.
On campus, Ramapo is facing some challenges. State funding has declined, and Covid relief was a one-time grant. Jebb said fringe benefit rates for teachers have increased nearly 15%, which means a salary of $65,000 costs the college nearly $100,000.
"Our expenses continue to outweigh our revenues,” Jebb said.
Retention rates at the college have been slipping, but application rates have increased 4% as of this beginning of the week. Jebb says the community needs to “lean in” as life on campus returns to full in-person capacities.
Since returning, the college has had success with maintaining low numbers of Covid cases on campus, with 49 this semester at the time of the speech. The test positivity rate is .9%, whereas Bergen County’s is 6%.
Jebb looks forward to continuing to grow Ramapo’s influence not only locally, but nationally. Her faith in the student body is unwavering.
"It is this student body who will make the difference,” Jebb said, “whether it is politics or any other field that will better the human condition."
A reflection on the address will be held March 3 from 1:15 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. in the Trustees Pavilion.