Acebo earns praise ahead of Higher Ed Committee meeting on NJCU monitoring report

Nearly two dozen legislators praise interim president’s efforts

The state Senate and Assembly Higher Education Committees will meet Monday for a joint hearing to receive testimony on the findings of New Jersey City University’s Fiscal & Governance Monitoring Report and Accountability Plan.

The meeting is expected to produce an important update on the financial health of NJCU, which declared a financial emergency in May 2022 after accumulating a structural deficit of $22 million.

The school’s financial conditions began prior to the pandemic, but were later exacerbated by it. The report found that, by 2024, the university amassed $287.1 million in debt, mostly due to its long-term campus leases. However, the institution has made improvements thus far, lowering its total debt and deficit enough to warrant an upgrade from Moody’s.

The committee, co-chaired by Sen. Joe Cryan (D-Union) and Assemblywoman Linda Carter (D-Plainfield) will hear from Secretary of Higher Education Brian Bridges, NJCU interim President Andrés Acebo and Henry Amoroso, the state-appointed fiscal monitor, who issued the report.

The intent of the hearing is to hear the status of benchmarks related to NJCU’s fiscal stability and recommendations about future steps needed to best serve the university’s students.

“NJCU is the only four-year university in Hudson County, where it plays an important role in offering an affordable college education to its student body,” Cryan said. “Like other institutions of higher education in New Jersey, the school’s financial health is important for its students, their families and the taxpayers. While the school has made real progress in addressing its financial problems, I want this hearing to help the Legislature and others to determine a path forward in a financially responsible way.”

Carter called NJCU a “beacon of hope” for its efforts.

“The past few years have brought unprecedented challenges that NJCU has experienced,” she said. “Now, the focus is on supporting its prosperity and ensuring it continues shaping the promising futures for numerous Hudson County and New Jersey students.

“NJCU has been a beacon of hope and opportunity for many individuals, providing them with the tools and resources to succeed, as evidenced by the many achievements of their countless alumni.”

Last week, Acebo was shown strong support by members of the Latino Legislative Caucus, Black Legislative Caucus and Hudson County Legislative Delegation, who issued a statement affirming their continued commitment and support for NJCU’s revitalized mission.

“We applaud the servant leadership that the state and our communities have witnessed from NJCU interim President Andrés Acebo,” they wrote. “President Acebo is the only current Latino to lead any institution of higher education in New Jersey and the youngest known ever to lead a public university in our state.

“Equally notable is that he also personifies the stories of the students he serves as a first-generation, public school-educated son of working-class immigrants, born and raised in Hudson County, who became the first person in his family to attend college. He exemplifies the promise of equal opportunity and higher education.

“His passion for and connection to the community and mission that he has remarkably led out of crisis and into a period of significant revitalization has earned our confidence in his continued leadership to usher the university into its second century of service with stability, community engagement, strategic growth and student-centered service. His passion and leadership have earned him significant honor and distinction.”

The group (listed at bottom) noted that NJCU is one of the state’s oldest minority-serving and Hispanic-serving Institutions. Nearly half of its overwhelmingly commuting students identify as Hispanic/Latina/o. Thirty percent identify as Black/African American, and at least 8% identify as Asian American/Pacific Islander.

In addition, two-thirds of all students are first-generation, and the overwhelming majority come from low-income and working-class households. NJCU serves the most socioeconomically diverse student population of any public university in New Jersey, with a publicly celebrated history of driving social and economic mobility.

“This year’s commencement saw nearly 1,700 graduates, an 11.6% increase in degree completion over last year,” they wrote. “This is a testament to the resiliency and the new emphasis on student success in and for the community.”

The note was signed by:

State senators

  • Nilsa Cruz-Perez
  • Angela McKnight
  • Ray Mukherji
  • Nellie Pou
  • Teresa Ruiz
  • Brian Stack

Assembly members

  • John Allen
  • Rosie Bagolie
  • Alixon Collazos-Gill
  • Yvonne Lopez
  • Julio Marenco
  • Barbara McCann Stamato
  • Eliana Pintor-Marin
  • Carmen Morales
  • Annette Quijano
  • Jessica Ramirez
  • Gabriel Rodriguez
  • William Sampson
  • Shanique Speight
  • Shavonda Sumter
  • Benjie Wimberly