May 29, 2020

To William Paterson Faculty and Staff:

I hope everyone is doing well. This week’s Virtual Commencement made the best of challenging circumstances. I want to extend a special thanks to Francisco Diaz, Pam Fueshko, and the entire Commencement Committee, as well as Patrick Ryan and his team in IRT for all their great work organizing and producing a beautiful online celebration of the Class of 2020. Thanks, also, to all the faculty and staff who got our graduates this far and to everyone who watched the ceremony and shared words of congratulations and support on social media and elsewhere. I know they appreciate it, and so do I.
With the start of the summer schedule next week and Governor Murphy’s rapidly developing plan to reopen New Jersey, I’m sure we are all eager to gain some clarity in terms of when we can expect to fully return to campus. I believe that day will come sooner than later, but for now, all non-essential employees will continue to work remotely until at least Thursday, June 11. I will update you again on this topic as soon as developments warrant, but no later than June 11.
In the meantime, I want to update you on our enrollment and budget outlook, where we face significant challenges in the coming fiscal year. As of today, enrollment is down 8.2%, which represents an approximately $8 million shortfall in tuition revenue.  Additionally, as a result of drastically reduced State revenues, we expect our appropriation to be cut by $4 million. You may be aware that, in order to deal with its fiscal crisis, the State has extended its fiscal year to September 30 from the traditional June 30 end. This extension required Governor Murphy to send to the Legislature a three-month budget covering the months of July, August, and September. Last Friday, we were notified that this proposed budget includes no appropriated money for higher education or county colleges, a move which represents an additional $8 million shortfall in our budget. Altogether, our current deficit for William Paterson’s coming fiscal year totals $20 million.    
The Governor has committed to giving New Jersey’s public institutions $68 million from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER), which would be distributed by a yet-to-be-determined formula. His three-month budget also includes a $300 million dollar fund, which would allow universities to recoup monies lost as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We don’t yet know what the application process will look like or how lost monies will be defined. We also don’t know if another stimulus bill from the Federal Government will provide any additional money for higher education or, if dollars are directed to the states, whether Governor Murphy will provide any relief for higher education and the county colleges. Additionally, as we await guidance from the State regarding reopening, we do not know if our residence life operations will be impacted by reduced capacity or unable to operate at all for Spring and Fall semesters, given potential State and federal guidelines, which could add as much as another $20 million to the shortfall.
There are many uncertainties, but we know for sure that the coming fiscal year will be a difficult one. I am hopeful, however, that we will do what we do best as a University community – come together to find creative solutions that will allow us to continue providing our students with an excellent education.  
A quick reminder to join me and the Co-Chairs of the Re-Opening Preparedness Committee, Dr. Jill Guzman, director of the Counseling, Health & Wellness Center, and Charles Lowe, director of Public Safety and University Police, on Tuesday, June 2 at 1 p.m. for an online Town Hall in which we will update you on University operations and answer your questions. Check your email for the link to the Town Hall site. You can also submit questions in advance by sending them to  by Monday, June 1 at 12 p.m.
Thank you, and I hope to see you online next week.
Richard J. Helldobler, PhD