New NJCU President Has High Hopes for the University

New Jersey City University has a new president — Sue Henderson, the first woman to lead the school. She told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that she hopes to build on what the institution has already accomplished and provide a great learning institution for students.

Henderson said the energy at the school drew her there. “The energy, the diversity and the opportunity to be part of what I think is gonna be a renaissance of that area,” she said.

Before taking the job at NJCU, Henderson worked in Queens as part of the CUNY system. “New Jersey has a more decentralized method of sort of governing the higher education system. And I have my own board, which I liked. The other piece that I was just excited about was I think New Jersey’s on the up-rise,” she said. “Right now, many of our 18-year-olds leave the state to be educated and we’d like to keep them here. And the state’s invested in that through the bond referendum. So we’re very excited.”

NJCU has a major expansion on the horizon. “We’re gonna do an addition to the sciences. We’re gonna improve our media arts department through some of the technology monies. And then we’ll be building an academic building on our new campus as well as looking to do another residence hall,” Henderson explained.

Graduation rates at NJCU have been historically low. Henderson said education officials have to help students graduate in a more timely manner to increase those rates. She also said a focus on teaching how to write well, working with non-native English speakers on their ESL skills and encouraging students taking nine credits to take 12 per semester are all important initiatives that will help students.

According to Henderson, many NJCU students also work so they have to balance school and work. To help them, she said more scholarships are being offered. “Because we’ve been able to give out more scholarships this year, we’re trying to encourage students, don’t do three part-time jobs. Let’s give you a scholarship. You’re only down to two. So helping them to manage their work that they do at the institution as well as the work that they do outside of their home,” she said.

Higher education has become increasingly expensive, even at public universities. NJCU has the lowest tuition in the state, according to Henderson, and there is a high rate of student aid. “Students of very modest means can come to us and practically pay nothing between the aid that the state offers and the aid that the federal government offers,” she said. “What we need to make sure that we do is make sure that they get through in a timely manner. Because many of them at this point run out of aid. The federal government is not giving it as many years so we need to make sure, again, that they’re getting through in a timely manner.”

While Henderson said she didn’t immediately set goals for herself as president, after a few months, she saw opportunities.

“Because the city of Jersey City is changing so much, I like to make sure that we’re relevant to the city, to the region and that we have some really boutique programs that I think you would know about even nationally,” she said. “We’re located very close to Manhattan and we have a great music, dance, theater program. Our business program does some remarkable work down on Wall Street. We’ve got students who are beating the S&P 500 every year with a portfolio that they’ve been given.”