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A MESSAGE FROM DR. BARBARA GABA - MAY 11, 2020

05/11/2020 | Media Contact: Erin Mercer | 609.343.4923
A Message From Dr. Gaba

May 11, 2020

Dear Faculty and Staff:

Over the past two months, life as we have known it has changed dramatically. As you know, the COVID-19 virus has had a major influence on operations at our college and it is not business as usual. I want to thank all of you for your support during these challenging times especially those of you who have demonstrated your commitment to do whatever it takes to support Atlantic Cape and our communities. I appreciate all of those who go above and beyond to serve our students sometimes at night and on the weekends. Your efforts truly demonstrate that together, we are “Atlantic Cape Strong!”

While it would be impossible to recognize everyone, please know that I appreciate your caring, and acts of kindness, which have a profound impact on our students, their families, and the citizens that we serve. Nearly every day, I receive appreciation emails, from students, faculty, staff, and community members recognizing the college’s efforts in making Atlantic Cape and our community a better place, in the midst of this unpredictable public health crisis.

COVID-19 Financial Impact

When we began shifting operations and instruction remotely in mid-March, we had little information regarding the financial impact of the crisis. Due to declining state revenues, The State of New Jersey is facing a $10-$13 billion revenue shortfall and has frozen operating allocations to the community college sector by $17M. Specifically, the college’s appropriation from the state has been cut by 50% for the remainder of this fiscal year (April, May, June) resulting in a cut of $452,000. Also, the state budget has been extended until September 30 and to date, no state aid has yet been allocated to the community colleges for the months of July, August, and September. Thus, we are facing an uncertain fiscal future.

Enrollment Impact

In addition to the impact of the state’s fiscal challenges, like nearly all institutions of higher education across the nation, we are expecting unprecedented trends of low enrollment this Fall due to the significant weakening of the regional economy and uncertainty of the virus’s duration and impact. This is a significant challenge since 60.4% of our revenue is tuition-based. 

CARES Act

The $2 trillion CARES Act stimulus package has $14 billion earmarked to help ease the nationwide strain colleges, students, and their families have suffered due to the pandemic. We have received approximately $3.9 million in funding from the CARES Act. Fifty percent (50%) will be disbursed directly to students and the remaining 50% is restricted to cover costs associated with significant changes to the delivery of instruction due to the coronavirus. These funds will not completely cover our budget shortfall.

Budget Shortfall Actions

To combat our current economic situation, which includes not only immediate and severe reductions in State funding, the anticipation of significant loss of enrollment in FY2021 and, the uncertainty of any future assistance, several measures have been taken. Most recently we had to take necessary steps to cut expenses by eliminating the hours for a large segment of our part-time staff who had jobs that could not be performed remotely.

In addition, the following actions are being taken: 

  • Freeze on all but the most essential hires -which will allow us to minimize the damage while continuing to honor our mission as completely as possible.
  • Freeze on all discretionary spending with the understanding that this is the time to focus only on essential purchases.
  • Freeze on travel unless it is essential and directly related to helping us manage this crisis. This includes attending virtual conferences that require a registration fee.
  • Suspend certain programs and activities. It is recognized that some programs, events, and activities cannot occur in a remote environment. Therefore, those programs, events, and activities will be suspended on site until such time that we are in a better position to support them fully and successfully.
  • The launch of an aggressive and unprecedented television and digital marketing campaign across the state, with a focus on the southern region. We will focus on our affordability, unique programs, and our 3+1 partnerships.
  • The continued efforts of the Foundation to provide additional scholarships and emergency funds. Atlantic Cape’s Foundation is a separate 501(c) that has for decades supported our college. In the last five years, the Foundation has supported the College with more than $3 million in additional resources such as scholarships, emergency funds for students, administrative support, and other support. The Foundation will continue to pursue its quest in raising more than $50,000 in emergency funds over the next year.  I am confident they will reach their goal.
  • In discussion with other county colleges to form 1 + 1 partnerships where students would come to Atlantic Cape with transfer credits from other county colleges and universities to receive specialized training in key areas primarily related to health care, engineering, and technology, as part of the state’s economic recovery plan. Atlantic Cape students would also have the ability to transfer their credits to other schools to receive training we do not offer.
  • Collaborating with various constituent groups on-campus to determine how else we can maintain quality, minimize damage, and keep moving forward.

Statewide Coordination/Advocacy

Since the crisis began, I continue to meet regularly with the Coronavirus Task Force and community college presidents to discuss our challenges and the future of higher education. We will continue to partner with the New Jersey Council of County Colleges (NJCCC) and other organizations to advocate for legislation that will support all of New Jersey’s community colleges during this storm. Additionally, my Cabinet has been working with their respective Affinity Groups and NJCCC to ascertain the next steps as the situation continues to evolve. Most recently I have been invited by the Secretary of Higher Education to serve as a member of the NJ Higher Education Restart Advisory Group, which will provide input on considerations that we should take into account as we move forward with restart and recovery plans.

Ongoing Communication

I will continue to communicate with you as information becomes available. In the near future, we will host a virtual college-wide meeting for faculty and staff. My goal is to be transparent and collaborative and to benefit from the feedback of our employees. Ongoing updates are designed to inform you of Executive Orders for reopening, our future, and how we will be responding to these unprecedented changes.

The impact of a global pandemic and the economic disaster it has brought with it is far greater than anyone can entirely comprehend nor predict. Since this is an evolving situation, we may have to make further adjustments in the future, but we will do so as cautiously as possible. However, I have the greatest hope that we will get past this, together.

“Challenges are meant to be met and overcome.” (Liu Xiang)

All my best,

Dr. Barbara Gaba
President