Gitenstein: Incoming freshmen will receive OSRP scholarships

If the state government does not fund the Outstanding Scholar Recruitment Program (OSRP) for students entering in the fall, as Gov. Jon S. Corzine has proposed in his budget for next year, the College will fund those merit scholarships on its own, College President R. Barbara Gitenstein said in a letter sent to the parents of eligible students.

The College would then fund the incoming students’ scholarships for the next four years.

Legislators, who have a July 1 deadline to approve a state budget, could still restore funding to OSRP. “OSRP has faced similar threats in the past and received full restoration due to the lobbying efforts of our institution and families like your own,” Gitenstein said in the letter, which was sent late last week by the office of Admissions. She also encouraged parents to contact their local legislators to communicate support for the program.

“We’re still hoping that the state will fund (OSRP) and honor its commitment,” College Treasurer Barbara Wineberg said, “but we will honor this if the state does not.”

The College is obligated to fund OSRP for the incoming students because the students were told in previous offer letters that they would receive the scholarships, Wineberg said. “We had no indication that the state would take this position,” she said.

Wineberg said that this will not cause tuition to go up. The scholarships would be funded as a one-time “administrative project,” she said, and would not be funded with tuition increases or fees. Other proposed administrative projects would be pushed back, she said.

“It’s just a matter of priorities,” she said. “You do one thing or you do another.”

Gitenstein’s message on the office of Public Affairs’ budget Web page was modified to say “We hope that the state will meet its obligation to the incoming freshman class, but (the College) will fund four years of the awards for those students if it does not.”

According to the office of Admissions Web site, merit scholarship awards range from $2,500 per year to four years of tuition, room and board, in addition to a laptop. Gitenstein said that over one-third of each of the current classes receives OSRP scholarships.

The recruitment program is structured so that 70 percent is state-funded and 30 percent is funded by the College. If the proposed phase-out of OSRP is approved, the College would fund the scholarship 100 percent for the incoming freshmen.

Matt Golden, director of Communications and Media Relations, said that “any cut to this program would be . negative for our state.”

“The best thing people can do is let their legislators know about their concerns relating to OSRP and higher education funding,” Golden said.

“In terms of lobbying, that goes on because it must, but the president and Patrice Coleman-Boatwright (associate vice president for Public Affairs) have been very focused on the present needs of our campus community,” Golden said. “Once we get some answers about the disappearance of John Fiocco and the campus begins to recover from this traumatic time, budgetary issues will get more attention.”