July 16, 2020
I hope you are staying safe and healthy and enjoying some of New Jersey’s beautiful summer weather.
This communication will focus on our current enrollment and budget situation and the University’s reopening plan.
Currently our enrollment is running 5.2% behind last year’s numbers. Bright spots include increased graduate enrollment, and retention rates for first-time full-time freshmen. Continuing and new student enrollment numbers are lagging. I would like to thank all the Will.Power.101 Success Coaches, the professional advisors, Carmen Ortiz, Linda Refsland, and Danielle Liautaud Watkins for all their good work on retention. It appears to be paying off, but Reg Ross keeps reminding me the numbers are not final until census.
Due to monies received from the Governor’s Education Emergency Relief Fund (GEERF) we were able to balance the FY20 budget. From that fund, we allocated $400,000 to last year’s budget to balance it and applied $3 million towards FY21. We currently have a $9 million deficit in the FY21 budget. There are a couple of things that need to play out before we can see a truly clear picture on this year’s budget. One of the negative impacts on our fiscal position is that the State has not notified us what to expect for its appropriation beyond September and we have taken a 50% cut from the State for the months of July, August and September in the Bridge Budget. What could improve our fiscal situation is that the State has not released any allocations from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). This $300 million earmark will be distributed to public, private, independent and county colleges to cover COVID-19 related expenses. Additionally, our budget plan has a 7% decline in enrollment built in and as noted above we are currently at 5.2%. Additionally, I want you to know that while we are fiscally challenged, we will be making some strategic investments for growth, primarily focused on retention. These include program support and some critical new hires. It’s important that we invest in the University even through the hard times.
We have posted our
on our website and within the next few days will also submit a separate University Restart Plan to the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education. The Restart Plan, which overlaps with our Reopening Plan, provides required responses to questions from the Office of the Secretary. As required by the State, that plan will be posted to the web site. I would encourage each of you to spend some time reading through both plans, especially those parts that pertain to your work at the University. Please remember as guidance from the State changes so too must our Reopening Plan, so I encourage you to make it a point to check it regularly.
Much will change in the way we conduct our day-to-day lives and work. I do want to be very clear about one thing: Unless you have an exemption from Human Resources, everyone, and I mean everyone, must wear a facial covering that covers your nose and mouth at all times. Outside, if you are in the presence of others, and indoors, unless you are alone in a private space, facial coverings are required. The University will be strict about this, and will take disciplinary actions against those who act recklessly and endanger the health of our community. Wearing a mask is the best action we can all take to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It is an obligation we have to ourselves, our families, and the entire William Paterson community.
Currently the University remains in Phase 2 along with the rest of New Jersey. We have brought back critical personnel in some areas, ensuring that we remain under 25% of the workforce as per State guidance. We are hopeful that Governor Murphy will move us into Phase 3 soon. But I do want to alert you to a decision I have made regarding staffing schedules come the fall. In keeping with one of the tenets of our Reopening Plan, which is to reduce the footprint on our campus at any one time, we will move to Black and Orange weeks in the fall but they will be structured slightly differently than originally planned. Staff will be divided into two groups, Black and Orange. In a Black week: the Black group will work Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday on site, and Thursday, Friday remotely; and the next week will work Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday remotely, and Thursday, Friday on site. Orange will do the opposite. This will reduce the footprint and additionally provide, should there be a COVID-19 related exposure, additional time working remotely to monitor health symptoms before a return to on-site work. This may have to be altered for some units and these plans will be discussed with you and your supervisor in the coming days. I am alerting you to these changes now, so you may begin to plan accordingly. I will share any additional changes with you when I update you again next Thursday (July 23).
Please know I have heard your concerns about a return to campus, but I am resolved that in order to meet our mission to serve our students, some face-to-face interaction will be required. It will be up to all of us to wear facial coverings, maintain social distance, use hand sanitizers and wash our hands frequently, and monitor our health daily during the work week. Over my two years here, I know how much this community cares for each other and the students we serve. I am confident we can meet this challenge.
Thank you again for your support, care for our students and each other. During these times of unrest, it is the circle of support that we provide for one another that provides stability.