Fall 2021 Update from the Office of the President

September 27, 2021
Hepburn Hall in the Fall 868c98d756562c8f7c8a3dbed8fa0a25

University Mission and Culture

New Jersey City University is a public-anchor institution with an unwavering mission to provide a diverse population with an excellent education. As in past years, NJCU proudly serves first-generation students whose degrees lift them and their families. NJCU is proud to be a minority-serving and Hispanic-serving institution and has the distinction of being a national leader in social mobility. In furtherance of its mission, NJCU has committed itself to the improvement of the educational, intellectual, cultural, socioeconomic, and physical environment of the surrounding urban region and beyond.
New Year 2021 update digital concept - stock photo GettyImages-1284616728


Our public charge has weathered unique challenges and continues to do so. We face challenges that are endemic in higher education, especially during these past two years. All institutions of higher education have suffered setbacks in drops in enrollment as the number of college-aged students has declined. COVID caused major disruptions and losses of revenue, including reductions in state funding as the pandemic began. Faculty have had to change their teaching modalities. Student services have had to respond to the needs of students learning remotely and in isolation while IT has faced new demands for its services and technical support. These new pressure points are not unique to NJCU. What has made all of this especially difficult is that it came on the heels of years of governmental under-investment in higher education and changing expectations from society for higher education.  

Thanks to the hard work and dedication of our faculty, students, and staff, we continued to serve our campus community, maintaining our performances, art exhibits, speakers, athletics competitions, science programs, and outreach to the local high schools and community. This “can do” spirit carried us through these challenging times and puts us in a strong position moving forward.  

During these trying 18 months, NJCU, like many higher education institutions across the country, continued to confront its challenges. On days when these challenges have seemed insurmountable, I have been inspired by the resolve that our students display in all that they overcome as they enter our campus to learn and prepare to exit to lead.  

Decades ago, a bold vision for NJCU and the West Side of Jersey City was set into motion. Its realization has seen more than its fair share of setbacks and false starts, yet it endures—undaunted by economic recessions and a pandemic.

We’ve been beaten and battered by a seemingly endless pandemic. Yet we have persevered and fought the good fight. Every day, even through lockdowns and mandatory quarantines, our mission was never deferred. Our students continued to learn, guided by our remarkable faculty. Unlike many, we never closed our doors to our students. We kept our student housing open, our food pantry filled, and never lost sight of the needs of our students. 

All of us as members of the NJCU community have reason to be proud of what we’ve accomplished together.  But that pride must not lead to complacency. We must continually ask ourselves how can we improve? What can we do better? Where have we fallen short? Answering these questions requires integrity, accuracy, and fair-mindedness. Our questioning must be motivated and informed by our commitment to the mission of NJCU.  Regrettably, a report submitted to the Senate fails to meet these standards. It contains deliberate misinformation and mischaracterization and is designed to exploit mistrust and anxiety during these tumultuous times.

Opportunities For Our Next Century

We are fortunate to serve an institution that meets the needs of its community and has support from our legislators, business community, alumni, various boards, donors, school systems and hospitals. It makes a difference, and this support will help us achieve the important goal of being the anchor institution that our region deserves. As we approach our second century, NJCU is prepared to help shape a new era for higher education in the heart of the most diverse region in the country.

In the coming weeks, our new strategic plan — the product of hours upon hours of dedicated and invaluable contributions from our entire campus community — will be finalized. It incorporates the collective work of the Middle States review, and our various Task Forces on Civility and Shared Governance — the result of input from many on campus. It will be a plan with clear benchmarks, measures, and resource allocations that will continue our evolution into a true student-centered university and its promise fulfilled by a reinvigorated system of shared governance that is held up by twin pillars of respect and fidelity to our mission.

The University has championed its mission to the acclaim of the Governor’s Office, Office of the Secretary of Higher Education (OSHE), and the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) on initiatives like our recent ribbon-cutting of the NJCU @ Fort Monmouth campus, our memorandum of understanding (MOU) signing with NJEDA on our Sports Wagering and Financial Technology Workforce Development and Innovation Center at the School of Business, and the launch of the Guarini Institute on International Education and Economic Mobility.   

Our commitment to provide affordable and equitable access to higher education to a diverse population of students has not just won praise, it’s been emulated and sponsored. Whether it’s being ranked ahead of some our peers by Forbes, U.S. News & World Report and other publications, or being recognized as a leader in not just our state but in the country for our ability to promote economic mobility, NJCU’s mission is not just surviving these tumultuous times, it’s finding room to thrive.

The State of New Jersey touted our Debt-Free Promise Program and modeled the newly-enacted Garden State Guarantee (GSG) after it, which will make two (2) years of college tuition-free for students with household incomes under $65,000. NJCU’s program which consists of significant tuition discounting/waivers, will benefit from the GSG’s budgeted $50 million allocation. In short, NJCU’s multi-year investment in college affordability will now be rewarded. The State of New Jersey even further committed to our institutional mission by allocated an additional $3 million to our base allocation to support our efforts at Fort Monmouth.

We have used our influence to help support increases to the State’s Tuition Aid Grant (TAG) program and have joined a growing chorus to insist on increases to federal PELL grants. The goal of ensuring that access to higher education is not circumscribed by where someone and their families start is embedded into our mission.

Investing in Faculty and Student Success

The University has invested in ensuring that students can succeed, increasing the financial support through scholarships, emergency funds from the Foundation, travel abroad funding for faculty led programming, more robust health services, and a focused assistance program for advising, tutoring, mentoring, and degree completion. Thanks to the coordinated effort between Academic Affairs and Student Affairs, program degree maps are available to students, as well as yearly scheduling and increased efforts to improve gateway course success. This has resulted in a more robust retention efforts that have paid off with increased graduation rates and a more robust recruiting effort. New academic programs have made our efforts more effective and the needed faculty hires have been made.  

An institution is only as good as its faculty and our hires from the last decade have increased our presence and stature.  They come from prestigious institutions and have produced remarkable works in their research and their work with our students. This fall, we welcomed six new faculty and will be searching this year for an 11 additional new faculty. Whether it is the Model UN, the Music, Dance and Theatre (MDT) performances that enrich our fundraising efforts, exhibits around the city, student research efforts with faculty that often engage our local high schools, our distinction as a top producer of Fulbright Scholars, grant getting that shows a strong theme of excellence in the classroom and support for students, or the myriad of other activities that connect us with our community and ensure that academic excellence and student success go hand in hand, our faculty make it happen.

One important area that will enhance our work is the investment in the Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer. Dr. Angel Gonzalez has begun the important work of building on our greatest strength — our diversity — while ensuring that our underrepresented populations are well served. He will be initiating the review done last year for a Black and Latinx retention effort for our students.
A). Finances
The University has methodically taken on our financial challenges without retreating from a strategic vision set in the 1990s. We are not in extreme financial peril. While everyone on our campus should be vigilant of our financial stewardship, the University follows the guidance of those with actual and proven subject-matter expertise.  

Our Chief Financial Officer has noted that NJCU has had a clean, unqualified audit opinion from our external auditing firm KPMG for fiscal years 2015 through 2020. The audit for FY21 is not yet final. Contrary to misinformed suggestions, KPMG has not determined that NJCU is a “going concern” for any fiscal year ending with FY2020.

Notably, through strategic refinancing and financial planning, NJCU has increased its liquidity by $41.7 million from approximately $12.2 million as of June 30, 2020, to approximately $54 million as of June 30, 2021.

NJCU has increased its “day of cash on hand” from 28 days to 120 days from FY2020 to FY2021.

NJCU generated a surplus of $6.2 million as of June 30, 2021, as compared with a deficit of $19.5 million as of June 30, 2020 — a deficit consequence prompted by unprecedented enrollment challenges and revenue and aid shortages, cuts, and delays and cuts exacerbated by economic distress inflicted by a global pandemic.  

Unlike some of our peers, the University weathered a financial storm and brought about a budget turnaround in the sum of $25.8 millions — and importantly did so without affecting the jobs of hundreds of employees. No one was laid off as a result of the financial storm, even though that may have been an immediate response for other similarly positioned universities. We are proud that we made sure that would always be an absolute last resort.

Excluding the impact of GASB68 (Accounting Pension Liability) on NJCU, the University total net asset position as of June 30, 2021, stands at $83.6 million.

Revenue: FY2020 vs FY2021 
  1. In FY2020, the Total Revenues for NJCU were approximately $153.9 million. 
  2. In FY2021, the Total Revenues for NJCU were approximately $164.4 million.
  3. From FY2020 to FY2021, NJCU recognized an additional $10.5 million of NET Revenues.
  4. Reconciliation: 
  • In 2021, NJCU utilized additional COVID funding of $21.7 million including scholarships, direct student support and lost revenue
  • In 2021, NJCU received an additional $3.6 million from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as compared with 2020 when three months (April, May, and June 2020) of support were not provided by OMB.
  • In 2021, NJCU received less revenues from Tuition/Fees/Auxiliary of $3.8 Million based on the Remote Learning Environment
  • In 2021, NJCU received less external grant support of $1.7 million and other revenue was lower by $1.3 Million.
B). University Place
NJCU is fulfilling the vision of west-campus expansion first put into motion the 1990s under President Carlos Hernandez. Our efforts to develop and invest in our community honors our University Mission Statement in recognizing that to provide a diverse population with an excellent education we must also commit to the community that shapes their lives. We are a public-anchor institution. Our Mission Statement calls for us to work to improve “the educational, intellectual, cultural, socioeconomic, and physical environment of the surrounding urban region and beyond.”

NJCU’s development of University Place fully embraces our Mission Statement.

The subject financial plan was vetted and approved by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA), pursuant to its public-private partnership (P3) legislation. This approval subjected the University’s financial plan to intense scrutiny by a team of well-qualified, objective experts and senior officials at NJEDA.

The aforesaid P3 legislation required that the ground lease income generated by each development be used for an educational purpose. The educational purpose presented to and approved by NJEDA was the development of the University’s Center for Music, Dance and Theater (CMDT) and the associated 492-seat, state-of-the-art Performing Arts Center (PAC). Subsequently, these two projects attracted the Joffrey Ballet School to enter into a long-term agreement with the University to offer a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance program and to move its operations from Manhattan to the CMDT and PAC. These two (2) new facilities and its relationship with the Joffrey will put NJCU at the forefront of performing arts education both statewide and nationally.

It is not accurate that that the revenue stream from the five (5) commercial projects at University Place will not start until 2024. Pre-payments of ground rents in excess of $2.3 million were paid well before any of these projects broke ground and these pre-payments have been applied to ground rents since July 2019. Ground rent payments beyond the aforesaid prepayments will commence in May 2022 and ramp up to $1.475 million in 2024.

The ground rents from the five (5) commercial projects at University Place have a present value over the life of the ground leases in excess of $66 million.

The ground rents from the five (5) commercial projects at University Place are not “hoped for”. In fact, the ground rents from these five developments are senior to all financing on these projects and have the effect of superseding all investments made by the developers and all mortgages held by lenders. In other words, the ground rent must be paid first, or the developers and their lenders will lose their approximate $250 million investments to the University.

It is also inaccurate that the payment of ground rents is tied to a 90% occupancy rate or for that matter to any occupancy rate. In fact, commencement of ground rents on the four (4) mixed-use residential projects are tied to a date certain after completion of the project and the ShopRite project ground rents commence on completion and occupancy.

Notably, the ground leases for the apartment complexes have made the funding of the new residence hall on University Place possible and did not result in increased tuition, as it typically would at other institutions.

University Place brings new housing options, businesses, restaurants, arts and cultural events, and access to a fresh food market to the West Side of Jersey City, where these options have historically been limited or non-existent.
C). Global Initiatives
The Office of Global Initiatives raises hundreds of thousands of dollars every year. They are used to fund international students and international student programs, including international travel. It also supports faculty-led travel for those faculty who connect their courses to global work and research for students. The School of Business, The William J. Maxwell College of Arts and Sciences, and even the ESL faculty have gone to China using these funds. These funds are also used to help support students who would like to study abroad but would not otherwise be able to afford to do so.  

Funds generated through international programs are used to support delegation visits, which include meals, accommodations, etc. for large delegations. In addition, international students who experience food insecurity or Gothic Card meal issues, health issues, or other dilemmas, are also funded accordingly through international revenues generated by the Office of Global Initiatives.
D). P-Cards
While the University holds its obligations to maintain confidentiality over internal audit reviews in accordance with New Jersey law, it would be irresponsible to not note that the Director of Internal Audit has never claimed to have been refused receipts for P-Card transactions. The Procurement process requires the furnishing of receipts monthly for all P-Card business transactions. If any office does not comply, P-Cards are rescinded. 
E). Academic Program and Administrative Review
The Board of Trustees, legislators, and other stakeholders asked that we review our academic and administrative areas to ensure that they are being efficient and effective. Following the requested scope of work, rpk Group has collected data and begun the process of analyzing our data and providing us with a structure to be able to communicate what is going well, what we need to focus on to improve, and what new areas we should explore.  

rpk Group is facilitating both an academic portfolio and efficiency analysis and an administrative services review. It is not just conducting an academic portfolio and efficiency analysis. The former’s focus will be to inform our campus where we can best make our future investment decisions and the latter will identify how NJCU can maintain current levels of service at lower costs, enhance services as appropriate, and address existing service “pain points” at the institution.   This is not a compensation study; rather that was completed years ago to address market and equity benchmarking to maintain a competitive posture for diverse talent.

Unlike the academic portfolio review, the administrative services review is specifically looking (in part) to find cost savings. The administrative review includes a study of:
  1. The number of supervisors and the number of people they supervise;
  2. Administrative organizational structure and functional responsibilities
  3. Duplication of effort within and across units
  4. Technology spend and utilization;
  5. Administrative spending and contracts.
Specific recommendations might include:
  1. Administrative reorganization and restructuring;
  2. Reassignment of responsibilities
  3. Shift to shared services of administrative functions
  4. Leveraging of technology;
  5. Strategic sourcing on contracts.
The analysis will not just be limited to qualitative reviews such as interviews, rather it will involve functional deep dives.  By no means will rpk Group simply “validate” what administration says about itself. At its most recent meeting of the Steering Team, administrators and faculty alike noted the potential value of focus groups with faculty, staff, and perhaps most importantly our students, whose perspectives must be treated as critical to our operations.

Faculty representatives have been assigned, appointed, and welcomed to the working groups where a constant emphasis on the importance of scrutiny and collaboration have been echoed. The Administration has ensured periodic updates on rpk Group’s progress and publishes minutes from the Steering Team and Data Team meetings. Faculty and administrators are provided an opportunity to comment on the minutes before they are finalized and published on NJCU’s website.

rpk Group’s charge is to provide a framework for NJCU to maximize its reach and impact that will be unique to NJCU.  The scope of work for rpk Group at NJCU differs from the product and goals of other institutions like Vermont who were looking for consolidations among institutions. One of our primary goals is for NJCU to be able to develop a more data-informed culture of decision-making.
F). NJCU @ Fort Monmouth
After 15 years of holding classes at a trailer on the Wall campus of Brookdale Community College, NJCU opened a start-of-the-art learning facility at Fort Monmouth in July 2021. With 15 classrooms, a nursing education center, a cybersecurity lab, event space, and over 72,000 square feet, this student-focused facility allows NJCU to serve this area of the state as the only four-year public institution on Fort Monmouth. Our growing relationships with Brookdale, Ocean, Mercer, and Middlesex Community Colleges have created new partnership opportunities for students across a wide spectrum of academic programs listed below.

Due to the efforts and commitment of NJCU to Fort Monmouth and Central New Jersey, the state recently awarded NJCU an additional $3 million to its base funding each year starting in the current fiscal year. This additional money will help offset rent, operations, and staffing needs of this state-of-the-art facility. 

NJCU’s mission and the State of New Jersey’s reinvigorated commitment to affordable access to higher education and driving equitable and inclusive community investment are being served by our Fort Monmouth expansion.

The NJEDA’s CEO Tim Sullivan has observed: “FMERA has worked tirelessly towards its vision of restoring Fort Monmouth to its place as a creator of jobs and reinventing it as a driver of economic activity around innovation.  Welcoming NJCU onto Fort Monmouth furthers two of Governor Murphy’s goals — increasing access to institutions of higher education and repositioning stranded assets to drive equitable and inclusive investment in our communities. A win-win by all accounts.”

Undergraduate Programs 
  • Accounting
  • Business Analytics and Data Science 
  • Criminal Justice
  • Cybersecurity
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Finance
  • Fire Science
  • Global Business
  • Hospitality Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • National Security Studies
  • Nursing, Accelerated Program (2nd degree)
  • Nursing, R.N. - B.S.N.
  • Sports Management
  • Supply Chain, Logistics, and Maritime Port Management
Graduate Programs 
  • Master of Business Administration:  
  • Specialization in Business Analytics
  • Specialization in Finance
  • Specialization in Healthcare Management
  • Specialization in Marketing
  • Specialization in Organizational Management and Leadership
  • Specialization in Supply Chain & Maritime Port Management
  • Customizable MBA
  • Special Certificate of Readiness (CORe) from Harvard Business School Online
  • Accounting
  • Business Analytics and Data Science
  • Business Information Systems
  • Finance
  • Specialization in Financial Management
  • Specialization in Financial Analysis
  • Specialization in Risk Management and Compliance
  • Financial Technology
G). COVID-19 Health and Safety
We are nearly a month into our 2021-22 academic year, and the long-awaited return to a vibrant student-focused campus is here. The University’s obligation to ensure a safe and healthy environment for its students, faculty, and staff has not and will not ever be compromised.  We do know that the last 18 months have been daunting for many. Our students, faculty, and staff have all been afflicted by this pandemic in varying ways. The enduring trauma is real. We have a responsibility to one another. We will emerge stronger.

Back in the Spring, the University became one of the first public four-year colleges to establish that students would need to provide proof of vaccination to attend in-person classes in the Fall. Similar requirements for staff and faculty could not be unilaterally imposed without impact bargaining with their respective unions. Those negotiations have been coordinated through the Governor’s Office.

NJCU was one of the few public institutions to offer on-campus priority vaccination to students, faculty, staff, and their families dating back to April. Unfortunately, vaccine hesitancy is an issue that our community is not immune from. To address it, the University partnered with community health organizations and produced a Town Hall on the effectiveness of the vaccines and has been adamant about strongly recommending vaccination. We even facilitated the means for our nursing students and faculty to aid in the mass vaccination efforts in Hudson County and secured priority access to vaccinations to our campus community.

Like our peers, the University set an August 2021 deadline for students to furnish proof of vaccination. The initial reporting revealed the threat of an enrollment nightmare despite countless efforts to mitigate against it. Thousands of students would need to be dropped or unregistered from Fall classes. That was not something the University could accept. It would be counter to our mission.

These considerations required the University to amend our policy. We established a longer runway for student compliance but did so without compromising health and safety. Notably, the University has mandated that all unvaccinated students and employees must submit to weekly COVID-19 testing and a student in-person clearance list is made accessible to all faculty. Failure to comply precludes the individual from entering the campus and subjects them to disciplinary action. Testing is available on-campus five (5) days a week at no cost to students or employees.

With respect to students, specifically those registered for in-person classes, the University, at the invaluable suggestion of faculty leadership, set a deadline of September 17, 2021 for them to receive their first dose. The second dose must be administered no later than October 8, 2021. The mandate applied to all students registered for in-person classes who do not have an approved medical or religious exemption is accordance with prevailing law.

Once again, unvaccinated students and employees are not allowed on campus without having provided a weekly negative test result. Faculty have been given live and current access to a daily roster of students that have not been cleared to attend in-person classes in a manner that complies with State and federal privacy requirements.  

Notably, NJCU’s policies that are reflective of changing circumstances are subject to change as science and public health guidance recommends have not been made in a vacuum. The University’s policies are consistent and, in many instances, go beyond the minimal recommendation or requirements set by the Governor’s Office for state institutions. 

The University has set up a system of verification and cross-referencing of vaccination cards against the State’s vaccination database. The State database has about a five-day lag.

The result of our amended policy has been that, to date, at least 94 percent of students registered for in-person instruction have received at least their first dose of the vaccine. It’s important to note that a similar percentage of the faculty and professional staff have now furnished proof of vaccination.  

With an overwhelming majority of our students vaccinated, the University was able to further balance our protocols to the campus’s real-time considerations. Recently, we were able to announce that with the significant vaccine compliance, courses that were advertised and setup for Hyflex technology could be strategically utilized to bring our overall student vaccination rate for in-person classes to approximately 94 percent this fall. This paved the way to ensure that an even stricter weekly testing protocol of twice a week could be implemented based on our on-campus support services and public health partnerships.

The University continues to offer access to COVID-19 on campus twice a week.  We urge everyone to please continue raising awareness about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines.

Sue Henderson, Ph.D.
President, New Jersey City University