Fordham University Remains Strong in the Face of Widespread Economic Decline


Published: August 28, 2008

Colleges and universities across America seem to be feeling the sting of the poor economy, but Fordham University does not appear to be among those suffering. In the face of high transportation prices, increasing unemployment and a shrinking student loan market, administrators at Fordham say the university is standing strong.

Perhaps some of Fordham’s resilience can be attributed to its status as a private institution. Although one may expect that traditionally more expensive schools would be hit the hardest in tough economic times, a February article in the Sacramento Business Journal suggests otherwise. The Journal states that a cut in state budgets will lead to tuition hikes and scholarship cuts at state schools. This will lessen the incentive for students to attend these schools and may put private schools on an even playing field.

Yet there are also significant factors working against both private and public institutions. According to a New York Times article, the high price of gasoline has caused an increase in enrollment at community colleges, as well as online colleges.

At Fordham, applications were up eight percent this year, according to John Buckley, associate vice president for undergraduate enrollment. Buckley asserted that there were be approximately 100 more freshman attending Fordham this year as opposed to last and that the “caliber of student is stronger based on standardized tests.”

Frank Simio, Fordham vice president of finance, said that both applications and yield of acceptance were on par with previous years and that the negative effects of the economic decline had not been seen at Fordham.

As for tuition increases, Simio said that Fordham’s tuition did increase this year, but at the same rate as usual, and not in reaction to the state of the economy. Citing the fact that some change was anticipated, Simio emphasized that there was a “noticed lack of change in activity from returning students.”

Jenifer Campbell, director of residential life at Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC), echoed Simio’s sentiments. Campbell stated that not only have the effects of the poor economy not been felt in the Office of Residential Life, but that “the numbers are up from last year.” She said that approximately the same number of students chose to live in McMahon Hall this year as opposed to last year and asserted that the residence hall is certainly full.

Although Fordham itself is faring well in the economic crisis, several students are feeling some pain. Incoming freshman Gabriel Agostini, FCRH ’12, said that the high price of gas does not affect him directly because he does not drive, but instead, he cited its indirect effects. “It does affect the price of public transportation, which plays a huge role in my commute, especially since I live in New Jersey,” he commented. Frequent commuters like Agostini were hit with increases in the price of monthly Metro Cards, which rose from $76 to $81 in February, according to The New York Times.

Agostini hopes to end his commuting days soon by moving into the dorms, but for now he is able to take advantage of the Metro Grant—six thousand dollars per year for commuters with permanent residences in the tri-state area. But he says this aid “isn’t the greatest due to the fact that it’s stripped from you once you move onto campus.  Losing the Metro Grant and gaining a dorm loses you the six thousand and then makes you pay 15 thousand more,” Agostini remarked, referring to the amount he will have to pay for room and board.

Sean McChesney, FCRH ’12, said that his college search was limited to schools located within a few  hours of his home. “Anything further would have put too much of a financial strain on my family just to get me there,” McChesney said. Although he initially was inclined to attend Loyola College in Maryland, an additional offer of aid from Fordham changed his mind. McChesney stated that the “substantial grant” that Fordham ultimately presented was the “deciding factor” in his selection.

However, Colleen Thornhill, FCLC ’12, said that the economy did not play a huge role in her decision to attend Fordham. “I was more focused on location and majors offered,” Thornhill stated.

Kat Kaneb, FCLC ’12, seemed of a similar mindset.  “My decision to go to Fordham was not affected by gas, lack of scholarship or anything else money-related. I was offered more money at other schools, but out of all of the schools I was accepted to, Fordham was my top choice, so I decided to come here,” she said.

Although Fordham appears unaffected by the economy so far, both Buckley and Simio expressed some concern for the future. Simo stated that rapid inflation could cause financial difficulties in the operations of the university. Buckley agreed that the negative effects “may not play out until future cycles.” Because the downturn has been fairly recent, he stated his belief that the potential for negative change still exists.

For now, however, Simio and Buckley assert that Fordham is standing strong in the face of national economic decline.