AFT Local 1839 at NJCU releases independent assessment that challenges fiscal monitor’s recommendations

Assessment, done by Resolution Economics, says report lacks financial and strategic details

AFT Local 1839, representing the faculty and professional staff union at New Jersey City University, is raising concerns over recent recommendations made by the fiscal monitor appointed by the New Jersey secretary of higher education.

While the monitor’s report, released in March, offers fiscal recommendations seemingly advantageous to NJCU’s financial future, AFT Local 1839’s subsequent independent assessment, conducted by Christopher Young of Resolution Economics, unveils what it considers critical oversights:

  • Unrealistic consolidation proposal: The monitor’s suggestion for NJCU to merge with a larger institution overlooks the financial standing of potential partners, raising doubts about the feasibility of relieving NJCU’s debt burden.
  • Real estate monetization complexities: While the proposal to monetize NJCU’s real estate assets appears promising, the monitor disregards the intricate nature of NJCU’s property arrangements, potentially hindering successful execution and revenue generation, and does not include any valuation of the real estate assets.
  • Capital investments without enrollment assurance: The recommendation for strategic capital investments lacks a guarantee of bolstered enrollment, raising doubts about its efficacy in addressing NJCU’s financial challenges.
  • Overlooking market dynamics: The recommendations fail to account for shifts in Jersey City’s socioeconomic and demographic landscape, neglecting the realities of the target market’s evolving needs and preferences.

Young, in a 31-page document, summed up the monitor’s report this way:

“Although I find that the monitor’s general observations and financial direction appear logical on its face, a closer look at the details suggests that most of the recommendations are premature,” he wrote. “I find that many of the monitor’s recommendations fail to provide detail and often arrive at a conclusion without considering the path in which to arrive at the said conclusion. Essentially, the monitor is going from point A to Z, without considering, or at minimum elaborating on the points B to Y.

“I further suggest that many of the recommendations by the monitor are prone to fail for the same reasons that many of the historical strategic and financial decisions at NJCU failed — they lack financial and strategic detail, nuance and the proper rigor normally accompanying such large recommendations.”

William Calathes, AFT Local 1839 chief negotiator, took exception to the report, as well.

“Any proposal to potentially merge NJCU with another institution must carefully consider the unique relationship that NJCU has cultivated with its students, families and urban community over the years,” he said. “While collaboration and partnerships can bring about positive change, it is essential to preserve the autonomy and identity of NJCU as a fully funded, independent institution to continue serving its constituents effectively.”

AFT Local 1839 urges the state-appointed monitor to reevaluate these findings and consider adjustments or further analysis to ensure recommendations align with the best interests of NJCU’s students.

NJCU interim President Andrés Acebo offered this assessment on the report:

“Robust shared governance and well-engaged labor relations are the hallmarks of sustainable, meaningful and transformative innovation on college campuses,” he said. “Those have been the drivers of our refreshed mission and vision, and first-ever Academic Master Plan and Strategic Enrollment Plan.

“The university’s revitalization is being underscored by a collective desire to disrupt the status quo and the conventional thinking that surrounds the delivery of public higher education for those whose socioeconomic mobility depends upon it.”

Acebo he is eager to take in all information available.

“We will carefully review our AFT Local 1839’s feedback with the state-appointed monitor, along with the anticipated monitoring transition plan from the New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education,” he said. “In the coming months, the university will be deliberately engaged in a multiphased process of studying the efficacy of partnerships and affiliations inclusive of thoughtful and community-engaged feedback that harnesses our revitalization, strengthens our distinctive mission and enhances our continued presence and important role of driving student success and mobility in and for our community.”