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New Jersey City University is asking the state for a $10 million lifeline after its board chair declared a “financial emergency” Monday at the school board’s quarterly meeting.
At the same time, school president Sue Henderson announced she was stepping down after 10 years at the Jersey City school. Jason Kroll, vice president and chief strategy officer, has been named interim president
“The university faces an unprecedented challenge, which is a direct result of historic underinvestment in the university and in black and brown communities, as well as a lack of funding relative to its peer institutions,” said Joseph Scott in a letter to the NJCU Community.
“This, combined with a national trend of declining college-age student enrollment, has resulted in a long-term erosion of the university’s ability to function. The pandemic has only exacerbated these problems, further reducing enrollment and accelerating the decline in operating revenue.
Scott said the board passed a 90-day draft budget that allows the university to pursue “rightsizing solutions” to address an existing and recently escalated structural deficit.
Scott, the former president and CEO of Jersey City Medical Center, also said the school appealed to the state legislature for more help. Sen. Brian Stack, D-Union City, introduced a budget resolution to increase state aid “by a much-needed $10 million.”
The announcement of financial difficulties comes after the NJCU has expanded on several fronts, including a mini-campus on the Jersey City waterfront, the west side of the city, facilities in the former Fort Monmouth and programming athletic.
In a no-confidence vote last September, the NJCU faculty senate claimed that during Henderson’s tenure, the school went from a surplus of $101.8 million to a deficit of $67 million. $4 million. The faculty senate also asked how the school planned to pay off its $156 million debt.
After this meeting, Scott and the board reiterated their support for Henderson and claimed multiple inaccuracies in the accounting of the faculty senate.
In her resignation announcement, Henderson, the school’s 12th president and first woman to hold the position, cited expansion plans as some of her accomplishments.
“Now is the time for me to move on to the next opportunity, as I look back fondly on ten productive and fulfilling years at NJCU,” she said in a letter to the school community. “What a remarkable time this has been for the university. We have accomplished so much.
She noted that NJCU’s four-year graduation rate jumped from 9% to 23% this spring and the six-year graduation rate followed suit, rising from 29% to 39%.
“We are on the right trajectory and are well positioned to continue to improve, the most important metric for any quality higher education institution,” she said.
Scott credited Henderson with ensuring that tuition and fees remained among the lowest of any public four-year college and university in the state and with implementing the Debt-Free Pledge Program of the NJCU to make college education accessible and affordable.
“Throughout her presidency, Sue has demonstrated a deep commitment to academic excellence and access to quality, affordable higher education for our diverse student population,” Scott said.
Kroll has more than 17 years of experience in multiple leadership positions at three institutions – Rutgers University of New Brunswick, Monmouth University and NJCU, Scott said.
“He brings a holistic understanding and appreciation of the whole institution, demonstrated success leading large, complex units, has management consulting experience, and a deep and passionate commitment to NJCU’s mission and the value intrinsic to higher education,” Scott said in his letter.