NJCU getting strong support from variety of groups — and hoping for more

Elected officials, trades, chambers all speaking up for institution as it fights its way back from financial crisis

Assemblywoman Angela McKnight said she understands the importance of New Jersey City University to Jersey City — and the need to continue to fight for it.

“Generations of families have gone to this university,” she said. “NJCU is a staple in the community. To have this ripped out from underneath us would be devastating.”

McKnight (D-Jersey City) was asked to speak last week when the school announced a unique project labor agreement with the Hudson County Building Trades — one that will bring internships and apprenticeships to students and the community. But, for her, the NJCU story is about more than just one agreement.

The school, which suffered a financial crisis last summer, is in the middle of attempt to rightsize itself under interim President Andrés Acebo. The school reduced its management-level workforce by 41% and cut its academic portfolio by 37% — but that only cut half of the school’s $22 million budget deficit for this fiscal year.

McKnight said she is urging the state and others to help rebuild what has been a vitally important institution in the community for generations.

“It’s a staple in the community and it’s an institution that needs just a little help,” she said. “NJCU has hit a bump in the road, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. We need all stakeholders in the state of New Jersey to come together as a family to lift NJCU up.”

She’s not the only one offering support.

Carlos Medina, the CEO of the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, said his chamber is urging more help for the state’s most socioeconomically diverse and oldest historically minority- and Hispanic-serving institution of higher education.

“We urge the state of New Jersey to invest in NJCU as it continues to emerge from its fiscal crisis and the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on our community,” he said. “When we invest in our community, we ensure a more advanced workforce and a better future for the entire state of New Jersey, where the Hispanic community’s GDP is over $97 billion.”

Medina said the payoff will be impactful — today and tomorrow.

“NJCU will continue to play a defining role in our community for future generations — helping aspiring entrepreneurs in our state to obtain equitable access to quality higher education and economic mobility,” he said. “With most graduates remaining in the Garden State, their contributions to the workforce and leadership in the private-public sectors will continue to amplify the community around the university.”

Hudson County Commissioner Bill O’Dea is all in.

“NJCU is an indispensable resource to so many Hudson County residents, and I will do whatever I can to advocate for more support to help it thrive well into the future,” he said.

Acebo said he and the school are grateful for the support. He knows what the school means to the Hispanic community and Hudson County.

Acebo said he’s proud of the support from McKnight, the Statewide Hispanic Chamber and the Hudson County Building Trades — and that he’s looking for more partnerships.

“A tenet of this institution has been and must continue to be economic mobility,” he said. “Finding community partners and organizations that are similarly anchored into that principle is critically important.”