Office of the President
August 1, 2022

Dear William Paterson Faculty and Staff,

I am sure some of you read with interest a recent article in The Star Ledger and The Jersey Journal in which the AFT was critical of the University’s 2018 strategic decision to build the new residence hall now known as Skyline.  I want to provide some additional background that I think is critical to understanding why this was a good financial decision for our students and William Paterson. 

An external review at the time found that the University was losing market share due to how some of our outdated residence life facilities compared to those of our competitors. With Board of Trustees approval, the University decided to invest in a new facility (Skyline) and take an outdated building off line (Overlook North). The way Overlook North was constructed meant that removing walls to renovate it while providing more modern living spaces was not feasible.  

It is important to focus on the long-term benefit Skyline brings to our students and our campus. Skyline has been a tremendous success on both fronts. It is our most in-demand residence hall. Our residential students appreciate the building’s modern amenities and ample opportunities for communal living and learning. Thanks to its strong appeal, Skyline is also more than paying for itself, as a brief summary of its costs and revenues demonstrates. 

Of Skyline’s $40 million construction cost, only $5.2 million came from the reserve. The balance was borrowed, and the annual payments, which started at $335,000 in 2018, top out at $1.7 million by the time the bonds mature in 2047. With the exception of the period when we were fully remote due to the pandemic, Skyline has been at or very near capacity since it opened. However, even using a very conservative 80% occupancy rate would yield more than $1.9 million in annual revenue. 

It’s also important to consider the tuition dollars that Skyline residents generate, which could be lost if those students, who desire a modern residential life experience, decided to go elsewhere if we didn’t have a hall like Skyline that meets their needs. Using the same 80% occupancy figure, these residential students generate more than $3.1 million per year in tuition dollars to the institution.  Add the room revenue and the tuition revenue together, and it equals more than $5 million annually. Of that, we pay $335,000 toward debt service, plus personnel and maintenance costs.    

Now let’s look longer term, using as a basis the industry standard 20-year anticipated life of the building before any major renovations or upgrades would be necessary. On the revenue side, assuming annual 2% room and tuition increases, Skyline will bring approximately $123 million to the University. On the cost side, adding the $24 million in interest and premium fees to the $35 million borrowed for construction gives us $59 million, which means that lifetime revenues exceed costs by $64 million. While I am sensitive that keeping people employed is important, the money from the reserve used for Skyline would cover just one month of University payroll, while a decision not to build it would have cost potential net revenue to the University of $64 million over 20 years. Skyline is unquestionably a positive revenue generator for the University and will continue to be for many years to come.    

I want to stress that cash reserves should be used for one-time strategic investments like Skyline, not to balance the operating budget. Our only path forward is to grow enrollment through better retention, over time.

The article in question also raised the matter of the campus parking garage, and in a future communication, I will address the case for why that, too, was a sound investment.

Additionally, there is a rumor circulating that the President’s Office will be relocating from Hobart Manor to 1800 Valley Road. While I have been holding Cabinet Meetings there because the Board Room provides more space for social distancing and the technology for people to remotely participate in the meetings, there are no plans for the President’s Office to relocate to 1800 Valley Road.  

I am pleased to share that Dr. Lori E. Ciccomascolo, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Student Success and Professor of Education at the University of Rhode Island, will join our campus community this year as an American Council on Education Fellow. As many of you know, the ACE Fellows is a prestigious program that allows emerging leaders in higher education to pursue the study and practice of leadership at host institutions and then take what they’ve learned back to their home campus.

I had the privilege of serving as an ACE Fellow myself and am Immediate Past Board Chair of the Council of Fellows, so I know first-hand the value the program brings to the host campus. Dr. Ciccomascolo has extensive experience in strategic planning, anti-racism and other DEI work, and serves as Co-chair of URI’s program for first-generation students, as well as faculty experience teaching in its First-Year Transition, which is similar in mission to our Will. Power. 101. 

In our interview, I was impressed by the extent to which Dr. Ciccomascolo shares WP’s commitment to student success, and she made it clear that our work in serving and supporting all students is what led to her interest in joining our campus. She will be participating in administrative meetings across all areas of the University, so I’m sure you will have the opportunity to welcome her and make her feel at home. 

This week’s WPWe are Proud – Congratulations to Kimberly Perez-Lucero and Melissa Zea, both entering second year as master’s degree students in clinical and counseling psychology at William Paterson University, who each received prestigious American Psychological Association (APA) 2022-2023 Minority Fellowship Program awards. Both graduate students are Latinx, first-generation college students involved in William Paterson’s school-based program in Paterson, N.J. to give back to the community. Perez-Lucero received the APA’s award for Services for Transition Age Youth (STAY). This fellowship award is designed for students whose training prepares them to provide mental health services to transition-age youth, ages 16 through 25, and their families. Zea received the APA’s Interdisciplinary Minority Fellowship Program (IMFP) award for graduate students who commit to significantly improving the quality of care provided to ethnic and racial minorities who have a mental or co-occurring mental and substance use disorder.

As the excitement of a new academic year fast approaches, enjoy what remains of the summer, and have a great week.

Richard J. Helldobler, Ph.D.
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