MEGAN HEINTZ and MONIQUE T. VITCHE
When U.S. Senate candidate Cory Booker arrived at the College at Florham on Oct. 1, he walked into a completely packed room. Lenfell Hall was so crowded, in fact, that many students actually had to be turned away. Booker’s purpose at the school was to lay out his plans for how to make college more affordable.
FDU President Sheldon Drucker began the event by explaining to the audience how the university is making great efforts in trying to keep costs down by investing wisely and spending prudently.
Sophomore Brianna Kane then took the stage, saying “college affordability has risen to the forefront of our national conversation.” She then introduced the Newark mayor and Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate.
When Booker began speaking, he started by addressing his thoughts on Congressional Republicans, his opponent Steve Lonegan and the partial government shutdown taking place.
Booker said that he stayed up all night waiting to see if Congress was going to avoid the shutdown, adding, “I can’t help but get a little upset by what is going on in America right now.”
He said that the shutdown affects 800,000 people and many more who rely on the government for assistance. He joked that the only people who like the people in Congress at the moment are their friends and family.
“I expected our Congress to come together and stop a government shutdown,” he said.
However, the members of Congress did not stop the government shutdown from occurring.
Booker also took time to discuss how there were clear differences between him and Lonegan, who has had Tea Party Republicans endorse him and, in some cases, campaign for him in New Jersey. He also talked about how divisive the political parties in Congress have become.
Despite this, Booker said he is a “prisoner of hope,” a phrase he said he uses whenever there appears to be a roadblock in advancing change.
Photo by Megan Heintz
Cory Booker speaks to a packed Lenfell Hall on Oct. 1. He is running for U.S. Senate.
As for the subject of making college more affordable, Booker stated that he supports exploring a way in which students would contribute to their education through a payroll deduction instead of paying tuition up front. He also supports college savings accounts for working class families receiving the Earned Income Tax Credit, according to the FDU website.
Between 1964 and 2010, college tuition increased 144 percent, making the average debt of a student upon graduation to be $27,610. Booker said this debt is “enough to put a down payment on a house.” He also said that one in five student loan accounts are three months delinquent, meaning the account holders are unable to make the monthly payments.
“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.”
As an institution dedicated to being “The Leader in Global Education,” FDU is determined to keep costs affordable for students and families, Drucker said earlier to the crowd.
“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.”
According to FDU’s website, more than 94 percent of the university’s students get some kind of financial aid, with the average award totaling about $20,000.
“I want to thank your president for his incredible stewardship of this University and the Board of Trustees,” Booker said. “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.”
Since becoming in mayor in 2006, Booker has worked to transform Newark from a city with high crime to somewhere people are moving to, making for the largest population boom within the last 50 years, he said. One of Booker’s accomplishments was working to reform the city’s gang task forces, which at the time were working 9-to-5.
“Now, I don’t know where you’re all from,” he said, “but gangs don’t operate 9-to-5 in Newark.”
Additionally, along with N.B.A. player Shaquille O’Neal, he cut the ribbon on a $130 million project to improve the “economic engine” for New Jersey. Booker said that 3 percent of the state’s population lives in Newark but 35 percent of all of New Jersey’s development projects are currently happening there.
Booker also said that crime and other issues such as budget deficits were tackled because he worked with others from both sides of the political spectrum to achieve a common goal. “If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together,” he said.
Booker believes that, with the ideas he proposed, working with both sides of the aisle at the federal level will help solve the issue of college affordability and student loans.
He concluded his remarks by calling Fairleigh Dickinson “one of America’s finest institutions,” and saying that he is no longer a “prisoner of hope” but rather a metaphor for “hope unhinged.” He said, “I believe there is nothing we can’t do.”
Following Booker’s speech, sophomore Ethan Reiss gave his reaction. He said it was interesting to watch Booker speak but he had hoped the mayor would have talked more about college affordability. Booker spent a good part of his speech talking about the government shutdown and Congressional Republicans.
Two political science students who are members of the Republican Party also weighed in on Booker’s speech.
Senior Tom Strowe said that college needs to be more affordable but “we also have to create an economic climate where graduates can get jobs.”
Jordan Chester, a junior, disagreed with Booker’s plan to make college more affordable, but will be voting for him anyway. “I respect Booker because he emphasizes unity and has reached across the aisle and worked with Governor Christie on education reform. I may not agree with him on a lot of issues, but Cory Booker is someone deserving of respect.”