As the New Jersey Legislature reconvenes to finalize the state’s fiscal year 2024 budget, AFT leaders are reminding the state Senate and Assembly about the urgent need to address New Jersey City University’s well-documented financial crisis.

“New Jersey City University hands first-generation students their diplomas and gives them a shot at a secure, middle-class life,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a press release issued June 1. “That’s not something we’re willing to give up on — especially when it’s the result of mismanaged money. For Trenton, this is a ‘what side are you on’ moment. We are asking the Legislature to stand with students and staff and right the wrongs of the previous administration that gambled away their futures — not down the Shore, but in plain sight. We’re not asking for a blank check: We’re asking for enough support to dig out of a black hole that is about to swallow the dreams and opportunities of a large part of the city’s heart. The solution here is simple enough. Fill a funding gap. Demand a little responsibility from the university administration. Because what we’re fighting to save is priceless — education, jobs and hope.”

“New Jersey City University serves a very diverse population of largely first-generation college students,” AFT Local 1839 President Barbara Hildner said. “Its mission is to provide them with educational opportunities that guide and support their carving out their own paths and achieving what is important to them.  

“Unfortunately, since last summer, NJCU has been addressing a serious financial crisis resulting from the previous administration’s fiscal mismanagement. In response, AFT Local 1839 and the new administration are working together for the benefit of the university. Nonetheless, the degree to which they succeed depends on sufficient financial support from the state. The students deserve an education from a college that is thriving and not just surviving. NJCU asks the Legislature to provide the financial support NJCU requires as it moves forward to its second century at the end of this decade and continues, from positions of academic and financial strength, to fulfill its mission.”

“For several years, New Jersey has promoted its No. 1 status in PreK-12 education, but unfortunately, many of our state’s higher education institutions are eliminating programs, laying off faculty and staff who directly serve our students, or struggling to keep their doors open,” AFTNJ President Donna M. Chiera said. “Minority-serving universities such as New Jersey City University and William Paterson University accept, nurture and educate young adults from working-class communities, making their professional dreams a reality.

“Because of the state’s lack of financial transparency, accountability and oversight in higher education, previous administrations were permitted to mismanage funds. The mistakes of the past are now affecting the future of current students at these institutions and those who would follow in their footsteps.

“If we truly value providing educational opportunity to every student in our state, no matter what ZIP code they come from, we cannot allow these institutions to fail. The Legislature has the power to provide additional funding and has the responsibility to monitor their investment to ensure the funding is being spent on the true mission of these institutions: education.”

In mid-March, Weingarten, Hildner and Chiera were among the high-profile speakers at the Fund NJCU Rally. Since then, faculty, staff, students and alumni have appeared in video messages shared on AFTNJ’s social media channels in which they directly address Gov. Phil Murphy and New Jersey legislators about the need for funding and NJCU’s importance to the Jersey City community and to higher education across the Garden State.

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