The campus is beautiful. It really is a very nice place to study. However, there is always, ALWAYS some form of construction going on. This is good in that The College is always improving itself but I suspect that even when your son graduates, there will still be construction somewhere. Despite this, it's still a great looking campus and the library has a very welcoming feel to it. Excellent place to get studying done.
I'm not sure how many stay on campus now, since I live off campus. I lived on campus freshman and sophmore year. I would say 40%+ leave from when I lived there. This is not a huge deal because your son will make good friends with the people that do stay there over the weekend. There are just less people but it's not like you are alone. It's a good bonding experience, I believe. But yes, the campus is noticeably diminished.
The mall is about a 10 minute drive away. TCNJ provides transportation to the mall and a grocery store. It's called "The Loop" where a bus drives you around. I've never taken it myself but the option is there.
There are a plethora of local places to eat. Perhaps not within walkable distance but less than 2 miles off of campus is a good estimate. Check www.campusfood.com
and look up TCNJ's section on there. Lots of local eateries. Students, as freshman, can have their car on campus two weeks out of the semester, I think. If a floor organizes themselves well, it can be such that there are always two cars available for the benefit of others.
As for TCNJ's security problems: Google "John Fiocco" He is the reason why the security has been tightened. The area is just fine; I believe the security is there to show that TCNJ has taken steps to prevent further incidents. The police on campus should be ashamed that they treat the campus the way they do. The receive little respect from not only the students, but the administration and the professors. They have the "something to prove" attitude.
I'd rather not say what my majors are to maintain some form of anonymity but I will have a BS degree and a BA degree. I do not know how the poli sci or history departments are here. I have, however, taken one poli sci course with Dr. Fair and he is an excellent professor. He knows his stuff and teaches the material in an engaging manner.
Thank you for your compliment. The average TCNJ student is not overwhelmingly intellectual. Conversations are not centered around politics, the arts, etc. I would consider this a fault of the campus, as I would enjoy more intellectually stimulating conversation. Suffice to say that while the students here are smart, their interests lie in more mundane things, such as what Britney Spears is doing now. There are bright kids here and it's easy to find others who share my interests but as a whole, TCNJ's students' conversations are not overbearingly intellectual. It is a major gripe of mine. I believe Princeton Review once ranked TCNJ as one of the more politically apathetic colleges out there. It's a shame.
I suspect less than 2% of the students here were Princeton eligible, with most being the 7 year medical students. Your son will not have a problem doing well in class so as long as he puts his head into his work. With such small class sizes, professors will get to know you well and they have office hours where you can approach them for more help outside of class. They are very helpful and understanding and will do their best to help your son if he puts the effort into it.