KFT charges enrollment standards lower

By Alexandria Addesso

The Kean University Federation of Teachers charged at its Sept. 9 Welcome Back meeting that the college lowered its standards for accepting new students this year because of declining enrollment.

James Castiglione, president of the KFT, which represents full-time faculty and professional staff at the college, charged during his address to members that due to low enrollment this year, students who had been denied enrollment to Kean when they applied in the spring were accepted when they reapplied over the summer. Fewer than half of the freshmen who arrived at Kean this year were regular admits, he claimed.

In a later email, Castiglione said he is basing his claims on multiple reports the KFT received from around the university. He specified that 57 percent of new freshmen are special admits and the other 43 percent are regular admits, according to his information.

He also noted a Twitter feed that tweets what he has found to be reliable information about Kean’s enrollment. The person behind the Twitter feed has not been identified.

Castiglione also said Kean’s enrollment is especially low when compared to competing universities like nearby Montclair University, which has welcomed their largest freshman class ever this year.

“Montclair just welcomed a class of 3,000,” Castiglione said, “almost twice our own.”

Several phone calls and emails made to University Relations for comment were not returned.

The KFT president also noted that the usual focus on the importance of transfer students has shifted this year to new incoming freshmen, and remarked that this path is putting the school in competition with community colleges rather than local universities. He then asked the room full of educators and faculty members, has Kean itself become a community college? Community colleges are required to accept applicants as long as they have a high school diploma or its equivalent.

At a Board of Trustees meeting held on Sept. 16, University President Dawood Farahi denied Castiglione’s accusations about Kean competing with community colleges.

“There was never a competition between this university and community colleges,” Farahi said. “What I have stated is that financially the community colleges are winning the battle because they [students] can go to a community college for two years for $6,000, and then come to Kean University for the other two years and get a Kean University degree for $26,000. Meanwhile, if they were to come to Kean University directly as a freshman, they would be paying on the average $40,000.”

Castiglione also addressed the issue of class sizes and the need to keep them small, which is Kean’s main selling point and something the university has going for it that its sister schools do not. Class sizes increased in a number of cases this year, he said.

In the questions and answers portion of the meeting, most of the faculty voiced that their main concerns were that their class sizes exceed the classes’ capacity.

World Literature had exceeded its capacity from 25 students to 35. When Castiglione asked the audience how many had seen capacity increases in their respective programs, about a dozen raised their hands.

“Don’t do it,” Castiglione responded, “if it violates the needs of the students and your program and academic integrity.”

Another topic discussed was the Kean University Board of Trustees vote to eliminate the Bachelor of Science program and the Master of Science program in Graphic Communication after the 2013-2014 school year. The decision to eliminate these programs left faculty members Dr. Cybil Nwako and Dr. Greg D’Amico up for retrenchment, which means that if they are not reassigned to another department they could be laid-off.

“They [Nwako and D’Amico] deserve the respect and appreciation of the university,” Castiglione said. Castiglione went on to note actions that were in need of accomplishing or maintaining, in which he mentioned hiring more tenured faculty, hiring more advisors, and compensating program chairpersons properly.

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