In 2021, Rowan University students will pay $19 million into Rowan University’s debt services, an increase of $6 million from when students paid $13 million in 2015.
Rowan’s total debt amounts to $654 million, according to the university’s 2020 Financial Reports. In comparison, neighbor Stockton University reports $79 million in debt liabilities.
This volume of debt was acknowledged by Chris Simons, chair of budgeting for the University Senate at Rowan.
“It is, it [debt] is higher… Our debt is higher, in part because we’re doing new things. We increased the debt when we opened– when we started construction on the fossil park, which– or discovery hall which just opened. I think the student center is getting a new addition soon,” Simons said.
Simons is referring to the Jean & Ric Edelman Fossil Park at Rowan University. To make this $73 million dream a reality, the Edelman’s donated $25 million to Rowan University for its construction. Rowan took this opportunity to loan $56.6 million from the Gloucester County Improvement Authority, totaling Rowan’s funds for this project at $81.6 million.
“It certainly is affordable now. The negative would be enrollments right now. So Rowan’s enrollment fell 3% last– between last fall and this fall. We certainly can afford for it. And maybe it’s even a nice breathing space because we’ve gone up, because we’ve basically doubled in size in the previous decade. A 3% fall could actually have some benefits,” Simons said. “But the fear is what if it’s not. If it’s a 3% fall every year? It’s not just that you’re not helping the students that aren’t coming, because they’re not benefiting. What if it continues? Look at the Penn State system, the Penn State College system. Some of them are at 12% falls this year. Stockton had an 8% fall this year. So what if these continue? Then the debt could look scary.”
In total, Rowan University will be contributing $40 million to outstanding debt payments during the 2021-2022 fiscal year. During this same time, The College of New Jersey will contribute $26 million to their debt services.
According to the university’s 2020 financial audit, students attending Rowan from 2026-2030 can expect to pay about $49 million dollars a year to this same fund. These debt payments will continue to be paid by a majority of student tuition, which accounted for 46% of the university’s revenue in 2020.
Despite the amounts of debt that Rowan has accrued, student-generated revenue stabilizes Rowan’s overall income to the point that Rowan’s debt is regarded by Moody’s Investor Service as A2. Specifically, Moody’s regards Rowan with the “best ability to repay debt.”
“[Rowan’s] credit rating has been doing very well. In fact, I think Rowan University had a better credit rating than the state of New Jersey, but that might be more of an insult to the State of New Jersey,” Simons said.
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