Mayor Cory Booker discusses college affordability at FDU
Fairleigh Dickinson University President Sheldon Drucker (right) greets Newark Mayor Cory Booker (left) at the College at Florham on Tuesday, Oct. 1. Booker discussed his views on higher education before a large crowd in Lenfell Hall. (Photos by Dan Landau)
By Kenna Caprio
Then-Newark Mayor and now U.S. Senator Cory Booker returned to Fairleigh Dickinson University’s College at Florham on Tuesday, Oct. 1 to speak on college affordability. Addressing a packed Lenfell Hall — full of students, faculty, staff and press — Booker championed higher education.
“We live now in a global, knowledge-based economy,” said Booker. “The most valuable natural resource any nation has is the genius of their young people. The more you learn now, the more you earn.”
Booker said getting more students to college should be a “rallying cry for America.” He supports exploring a proposal in which students contribute to their education through a payroll deduction instead of paying tuition up front, as well as college savings accounts for working class families receiving the Earned Income Tax Credit. Booker was also critical of the recent lack of direct state aid to higher education institutions.
University President Sheldon Drucker addressed the crowd first, highlighting FDU’s continued commitment to maintaining affordable standards for students.
“Too many today face too many obstacles to get a good education. Too many are denied the opportunities a college education provides,” said Drucker.
“At FDU, we take these concerns very seriously. We have worked very hard to keep our expenses reasonable, to spend prudently and to invest wisely. We have been able to keep tuition increases at a modest level and we have been able to provide millions in financial aid scholarships to help our students,” continued Drucker.
One such student who receives financial aid from FDU is Brianna Kane, a 19-year-old College at Florham sophomore and mathematics major in the Quest program. She took the stage after Drucker to introduce Booker.
Brianna Kane, a 19-year-old sophomore studying mathematics at Florham who receives both the Peter Sammartino and Colonel Fairleigh S. Dickinson scholarships, introduces Mayor Booker. Right, Booker addresses the crowd.
“The cost of education is such a big thing for students,” Kane said later. For Kane, the financial aid she receives from FDU means fewer loans to pay off after college. “It relieves a lot of stress now, and in the future,” said the Freehold, N.J. native who is active on campus in Colleges Against Cancer and Zeta Tau Alpha sorority and as a resident assistant and federal work-study employee. “I don’t have to make a certain amount of money each summer to continue taking classes.”
More than 94% of FDU students get some kind of financial aid, with the average award totaling about $20,000.
“You’ve got a president and a board that work assiduously every single day to not only make college affordable, but also to make the level of college education competitive globally,” said Booker. “We need to help colleges, like this one, keep their costs down.”
Drucker noted in his opening that FDU is determined to keep costs affordable for students and families.
“I want to thank your president for his incredible stewardship of this University and the Board of Trustees. This is a very special place, where not only many Newark residents have come, but also young people from all over New Jersey and beyond to get a world class education,” said Booker. He concluded his remarks by calling FDU “one of America’s finest institutions.”
College at Florham freshman and Rockland County, N.Y. native Justin Ballard, 18, called Booker a “great speaker” and enjoyed the way the mayor “interacted with the crowd.”
Financial aid for Ballard’s good grades helped lead the marketing major to FDU, as did the opportunity to play football. With student loans and scholarships, FDU was in the same price range as his sister’s college, SUNY Cortland in Cortland, New York, he said.
Watch President Drucker, Brianna Kane and Mayor Booker speak here.
On May 15, 2012, Booker received an honorary degree from FDU and delivered the address at the University's 69th Commencement. He previously visited the College at Florham to talk to students on October 8, 2011 and March 21, 2012.