Getting Reacquainted: Monmouth University (NJ)
Monmouth University (NJ) invited me and colleagues to take a mid-July counselors visit. I grew up in Central New Jersey about a half hour away from this school and competed in high school speech tournaments and Model UNs on campus nearly 50 years ago. Monmouth was “Central Jersey’s College” when I was in high school. The university is still popular with high school students in its backyard. But now it gets about 30 percent of each freshman class from other states.
I had another good reason to revisit Monmouth. My nephew graduated magna cum laude from Monmouth five years ago with a degree in Voice and minors in Marketing and Musical Theatre. He held positions in the leadership and major singing parts with Boom Roasted Productions, the student-run theatre company, becoming president during his senior year. My wife and I attended his senior recital my last time I was on campus. Monmouth has had more to offer its students since then, so I wanted to come back. I updated my Monmouth Pinterest page for you and hope that you’ll read on. This post is a bit longer than most.
Monmouth University can be considered a mid-sized school.
The university has 4,100 undergrads. That’s about the same as schools such as Fairfield and Marist which also get on lists for Central Jersey students, and about 1,000 more than former sports rival Rider University in New Jersey There are also 1,400 graduate students, partly due to the availability of several accelerated Bachelor’s-Masters pathways. Monmouth is also considered against other public colleges in New Jersey, especially in majors where there is overlap such as business, communications, education and nursing.
It’s tough to beat the location it you like the beach and the big city
Monmouth’s campus is about a mile from beaches and entertainment on the Jersey Shore, specifically Long Branch and Asbury Park. The Stone Pony in Asbury Park has been a living monument to rock music since the middle 1970s. It still attracts performers whose names that many high school and college students and their parents will recognize.
West Long Branch is also served by direct train service (Elberon Station) to New York City via NJ TRANSIT’s North Jersey Coast Line. It might a bit expensive to commute to an internship more than one day a week, but I’m sure that some Monmouth students do it. Buses connect the campus to Monmouth Mall in nearby Eatontown. While it is becoming increasing expensive to rent private apartments and homes near the beach, the university also owns apartments by the boardwalk. Those units top the list for upper-class students seeking housing. However, Monmouth also has residence halls and apartments on campus, and guarantees housing for four years. Parking is relatively easy for a school of this size, though on-campus students pay $350 for a permit. Commuters, including sophomores, juniors and seniors who live near campus, pay nothing.
You will find much beauty on the Monmouth campus.
The Great Hall at Shadow Lawn, a former 96-room estate, is home to the admissions office as well as the president’s offices. It makes a strong impression when you begin your campus tour. It was the home of World War II industrialist ‘Daddy Warbucks’ in the 1982 movie, Annie, starring Bernadette Peters, Carol Burnett and Albert Finney. Another former estate is now the Guggenheim Memorial Library. I put a photo of the front of the Great Hall up top and dropped another of the back below. There’s a photo of the front of the library right next to it.
If you’re a Bruce Springsteen fan, you might appreciate some of the exhibits of his fame in the library. It is the repository for his archives and home to the Center for American Music
Overall, Monmouth has done a nice job at updating the interiors of its academic buildings, athletic facilities, and offices regularly visited by students. I dropped photos of the Hess School of Business and the OceanFirst Arena below.
The grounds are very well kept, helping to make their campus feel safe. Our tour was on a hot day, but this campus has lots of shade. One down side: I felt that the main dining hall and student center food court could benefit from an interior update, and so could rooms and lounges in the residence halls that we entered on tour. Monmouth was also the first school I had visited in a long time where laundry is not covered in room and board charges. Students must pay for each load on an app.
There’s much to like academically about Monmouth.
While Monmouth might be considered a “small school” by some, it has many “big school opportunities.”. For example:
- Within business disciplines, Monmouth has the only accredited business school in New Jersey that offers a bachelor’s degree in Real Estate.
- It is also one of the few schools in the country that offer an accredited Bachelor of Social Work degree.
- Being less than a mile from the Atlantic Ocean, Monmouth is one of the best places in the country to study marine biology.
- There are more endorsements for students interested in Elementary and Secondary Education than one would find at larger schools. Prospective teachers also get a year’s experience student teaching, rare for any school.
- Monmouth has a nationally-respected political polling operation, great for students who want to combine interests in politics with areas such as journalism, marketing or public relations.
- This is one of the few schools with an ABET-accredited bachelor’s in Software Engineering.
- The university offers accelerated paths to become a physician’s assistant (PA) or occupational therapist (OT).
- Monmouth University has supported its own student-run record label, Blue Hawk Records, for the past decade, making it a popular place to learn the music business.
While Monmouth University has more academic programs than some might expect for a school of this size, no class in any major will have more than 35 students.
The opportunities and smaller classes are the best reasons to come to Monmouth, presuming the costs work out.
Students who live on campus have an estimated total cost of attendance (tuition, fees, room & board, incidentals) of just under $63,000. The average freshman merit scholarship in 2021-22, the latest year I could find, was just over $15,000. That was enough to cover room and board. The larger awards might not be enough to undercut New Jersey public colleges for Garden State residents. But they could make Monmouth less expensive than UDel or Temple, among out-of-state public options.
The Honors School welcomes approximately 100 freshmen each year. While that doesn’t come with additional scholarship money, it does make a relatively personal educational experience even more personal. Those students who find programs that they like at Monmouth and receive the invitation to Honors should consider it. It’s tough to get a similar experience at a larger, more selective school.
Most recently, Monmouth received a $21 million gift that will go towards more scholarships. Monmouth is also trying to help its neediest students through its own grant program called the Great Lawn Grant and the Shadow Lawn Science Grant. Residency Grants to help reduce housing costs will be offered for the first time this fall. To the university’s credit, Monmouth has recently managed to keep the average student loan debt just below $27,000. That’s the maximum that a student could borrow for four years through the Federal Student Loan Program.
Our group was also given an article from Inside Higher Ed about the university’s financial condition. While Monmouth’s endowment was $135 million, small for a relatively comprehensive mid-sized university, the university had only $1.4 million in debt, impressive for a private institution that faces a lot of competition for students.
With three exceptions, Monmouth admits to the university, not a major.
Larger public schools rely on direct admissions for their business programs, and other popular majors such as computer science. Not so at Monmouth. Monmouth allows students to enter undeclared, then take courses to target their interests to a school and major. It is very easy to move from undecided into an art, business, communications, education or science program. The university also makes it easy for students to “double dip” to fulfill general education requirements and a second major or multiple minors.
The nursing program and the accelerated paths to the PA or OT are direct admissions programs that require test scores as well as excellent grades. This past cycle, Monmouth had 600 applicants for 60 seats in the Nursing program, accepting 120. There were 275 applicants for 30 seats in the accelerated path to become a PA.
Aside from the Nursing, PA and OT programs it’s not tough to get into Monmouth.
Over 80 percent of the students who apply outside of those majors get in. Monmouth is truly test optional for all but the three health-related programs. Grades are the primary consideration. The average high school GPA is a 3.6. For the three health related programs it will be closer to 4.0 with excellence expected in the sciences, additional essays and interviews. While incoming freshmen in these programs would have a 1250+ SAT/27+ ACT Composite, most incoming freshmen in the other majors do not submit scores. Most recently, the average SAT for incoming freshmen was a 1210.
At present, Monmouth loses about a fifth of a freshman class.
I would like to see this number go up. New Jersey families will shop Monmouth against public options. I can understand someone choosing Monmouth over Ramapo (5,100 undergrads), The College of New Jersey (7,000) or Stockton University (8,800) if they did not get into Nursing at the public college and Monmouth said yes. But there is overlap between majors and costs matter for many families. Monmouth has a better post-pandemic freshman retention rate than Stockton (78%) but not Ramapo (85%).
The four-year grad rate slipped from 64% (Class of 2018) to 59% (Class of 2021). The pandemic and a switch to online courses might have had something to do with the drop. Maybe there is more interest in the accelerated paths towards advanced degrees that keeps people on campus for more than four years, but I have no way to know for sure.
Monmouth University has upped its game in athletics.
Monmouth competes in 24 NCAA D-1 sports, more than any New Jersey school, excluding Princeton. Last year the university announced that it will play all sports, excluding women’s bowling in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). This will give Monmouth an interesting mix of rivals, including much larger universities such as Drexel, UDel and Northeastern. Monmouth will be the third-smallest school in the conference after Hampton University and the University of Richmond. While the football team mustwait until the fall to play its first season in the CAA, the women’s basketball and field hockey teams celebrated their first seasons in their new conference as champions.
Monmouth is entering its third decade in football. The first 20 years have been largely successful. The Hawks have won seven conference championships, first in the Northeast Conference, then the Big South. They have also played in four playoff games in the Football Championship Series (FCS), though they lost three. This program has sent six players to the NFL. The best known, Miles Austin, played ten seasons, reaching the Pro Bowl with the Dallas Cowboys. Last season running back, Jaden Shirden, gained more yards than any other player at an FCS school. Rumored to be headed into the transfer portal, Shirden opted to remain a Hawk.
I really like Monmouth. It offers many of the academic benefits of a big school within a smaller community, and the location is tough to beat. I felt that help was available from the faculty as long as students try to do the work and ask nicely. However, the campus is less residential than many students might like, given that the university continues to attract students from its backyard in Central New Jersey. Monmouth is on a positive trajectory as it becomes a more regional university, attracting more students from the East Coast. But the costs have to work out for the cost conscious who might also be looking at public options.
Report Card: Monmouth University (NJ)
- Four-Year/Six-Year Graduation Rates: B/B
- Freshman Retention: B
- Costs: B+
- Curriculum: A
- Community: B+
- Comforts: B+
- Connections: A (NJ, NYC)/C (elsewhere)
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