May 31, 2004

Growing Stockton aims to serve community
By DIANE D’AMICO Education Writer, (609) 272-7241

GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey is coming out of the woods.

The dedication earlier this month of the Carnegie Library building in Atlantic City as a satellite campus for the college meant more than just the restoration of a historic city site.

"This represents the first footprints beyond our campus," Stockton president Herman J. Saatkamp Jr. said of the Carnegie Library building, and the recent move of its Southern Regional Institute to Mays Landing.

The expansion is motivated by several factors:

  • Fewer than 100 acres of buildable land remain on the Galloway Township site. Of the 1,600 acres originally purchased for the college, all but 400 are now protected by pinelands legislation. Factor in buffers and other requirements, and the actual buildable land space drops even more.
  • Undergraduate enrollment at the college continues to grow, a statewide trend reflected by an increasing high school population. Saatkamp said about 5,000 applications were received for 825 freshman slots in the fall. Total enrollment is rapidly approaching 7,000, a goal previously not expected until 2010.
  • As the only four-year public college in the southeastern part of the state, Stockton also has a mission to serve the larger community's need for professional and post-graduate training. The college has begun several master's degree programs in recent years and will begin a master's program in teaching this fall.

Saatkamp said the college is ideally suited as a catalyst to help economic development in the region.

"We can provide training, and we also offer a neutral ground on which business, government and nonprofits can meet and collaborate," he said.

In 2001, Stockton released an ambitious 2010 vision statement calling for expanding both undergraduate and post-graduate programs. The 2002 Middle State Association of Colleges and Schools evaluation of the college praised its progress, but cited as its major challenge the growing need for housing, parking, classroom space and faculty office space.

Professional training has already become one of the fastest-growing areas for the college. A prime example is the Educational Technology Training Center, or ETTC, which opened in 1997 in one classroom at the college as a training site for Atlantic County teachers.

The ETTC is now a regional arm of the college's Southern Regional Institute, or SRI, which offers several hundred workshops a year for 72 participating school districts, and government and nonprofit agencies. The SRI and ETTC recently moved off campus to an almost 6,000-square-foot building on Route 50 in Mays Landing.

"We've expanded our services into other counties and this location makes us more accessible," SRI director Harvey Kesselman said. "We had outgrown the space at Stockton, and our move also frees up space they can use."

The college spent about $150,000 to set up the Mays Landing site with computer labs, classrooms and distance learning capabilities. The site is funded by fees paid by participating groups.

Saatkamp said possible future expansion into Cape May and Ocean counties is also under consideration as part of a "Stockton on the Shore" plan.

Back at home, college officials will spend the summer reviewing options for the Galloway campus. A new master plan is in development, and expansion will be the primary topic of the board of trustees' annual retreat in August.

Among the needs under discussion are a new science building, a student center, a parking garage, dorms and faculty offices.

A private developer has been working with the college for more than a year to develop dorm space just off campus, but that has not yet been finalized. Recent college renovations will add some space, but not all that is needed.

"We have full-time faculty sharing offices," Saatkamp said. "And by offices, I really mean cubicles."

Ultimately, Saatkamp said, college officials and trustees will have to decide just how big the college should be, and can be. State funding has been tight, and major construction will be a financial challenge. The decision has already been made to limit new enrollment to between 2 and 3 percent a year.

"What is the optimal size for Stockton?" Saatkamp queried. "We will spend much of the summer on that issue."

To e-mail Diane D'Amico at The Press: DDamico@pressofac.com