(Reprinted from Current Newspapers of Atlantic County, January 8, 2015)
Four years ago, I wrote ?a column ?How will Stockton repay $225 million in debt??? ?At that time Stockton College had just borrowed that much for a building and buying spree.? It spent $36 million for the Seaview Golf Resort,? $65 million for its ?designed to wow? student center,? $39.5 million for a new science center, $49 million for new dorms, and $800,000 to truck in mature trees from Cumberland County rather than plant seedlings.
Stockton also built new plush offices for its administrators, and bailed out failures ?throughout South Jersey.?? These included the Noyes Museum in Galloway, the synagogue/museum in Woodbine, the renovated old library building and Dante Hall opera house in Atlantic City, the stalled NextGen aviation project in Egg Harbor Township and vacant buildings in Hammonton and Manahawkin.
At that time, Stockton officials said they would have no problem paying for this.? More than 8,000 students were applying for its 2,000 freshman openings each year.? This would guarantee 7,000 full time students paying $25,000 per year to Stockton for the next 20 years.
So far, these Stockton officials have been right.?? Last year, more than 9,000 students applied, and ?enrollment expanded to 8,700.
Now, Stockton is doubling down.??? With the rest of New Jersey?s economy shrinking, Stockton is building a second science building for $28.6 million, buying the closed Showboat Casino for $18 million.? It will spend millions more to convert it for college use.
Does this make sense???? For Stockton President Herman Saatkampf and his top administrators, the answer is ?yes?.?? The expansion gives them more money, power and prestige.??? This is also a windfall for Wall Street banks,? lawyers, big union construction contractors and? officials for the unions of both the contractors and Stockton?s public employees.? ???And since these people donate the most to political campaigns, this is also good for state elected officials of both parties who return the favor by sending $29 million of our tax dollars ($3,625 per student) to Stockton each year.
The same Atlantic City officials who once claimed the new convention center, Boardwalk Hall, baseball stadium, ACES train, Revel Casino, and free beach concerts would save Atlantic City are also cheering Stockton?s latest expansion.
But is this a good ?for students and their parents???? When Stockton College opened in 1971,? tuition, room and board totaled ?about $800.?? Nobody needed student loans because most students (like me) earned about $1,200 a summer on the Boardwalk.
Today, students take home about $3,000 in a summer, while this taxpayer funded college now charges about $25,000 per year.????? The average student graduates Stockton with $34,000 of student loan debt, more than for any other public college in the country.
For many reasons, Stockton students are not finding high paying jobs to pay back that debt.?? Some are deliberate.?? Stockton?s ?Africana Studies Program? may be politically correct,? but not likely to lead to a well-paid job.?? Its ?College Activist in Residence? may? prepare students to hand out food at the Food Bank, or pick up trash and plant dune grass to save the environment.??? But she is not giving them the skills or motivation to start successful businesses that could someday give generously to such charities.
The solution??? Stockton students and their parents should stop pursuing ?social justice? everywhere but at their own college.??? They should instead demand that Stockton return to what it was created for in 1971.?? Stockton should immediately cut costs, and restructure its debt and bloated salaries–through bankruptcy, if necessary.?? Then, Stockton should again deliver basic, quality college level education for what a student can earn from four summers of work.
Seth Grossman is an attorney, and executive director of www.libertyandprosperity.org in Somers Point.? His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.