Gov. Phil Murphy called on the Office of the State Comptroller Aug. 5 to review the financial situation at New Jersey City University.
The request for the independent investigation follows recent reports that the university went from a $108 million surplus in 2014 to a $67 million deficit, with another $156 million in debt.
“I write to you due to grave concerns with the financial standing of New Jersey City University, which was recently declared to be in a state of ‘financial emergency’ by the University’s board of trustees,” Murphy wrote in his letter. “These figures, if true, are deeply troubling, and require an immediate, independent investigation to understand how the financial situation deteriorated so rapidly over an eight-year period.”
Murphy said he understands the harsh realities and impact that the pandemic has had on higher education institutions.
“However, the troubles at NJCU appear to pre-date the pandemic and stretch back nearly a decade,” Murphy wrote. “Last year, concerns over the University’s fiscal management led to NJCU’s Faculty Senate passing a vote of no confidence in the then-president (Sue Henderson), who stepped down earlier this summer.”
Murphy says that NJCU, which serves over 5,000 undergraduate students and thousands more at the graduate level, is a significant part of the state’s higher education infrastructure and as a public university is accountable to the state government and residents.
“In light of serious reports about NJCU’s financial situation, I firmly believe an independent investigation into the school’s finances and operations would be in the best interests of the public at this time,” said Murphy.
The Office of the State Comptroller, which exercises its oversight functions independently, is responsible for oversight of programs of the Executive Branch, which includes public higher education institutions.
“I am formally requesting that your office conduct such an investigation and take whatever actions you deem to be necessary,” said Murphy.
“We have received the letter from Gov. Murphy related to NJCU,” acting State Comptroller Kevin Walsh told NJBIZ in a statement. “We have audited and investigated state colleges in the past and reported on what we’ve found. We’ll look into what has happened at NJCU and follow the facts where they lead us. If anyone has information related to this matter, please reach out to us through our website.”
Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione, spokesperson for Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, said that the mayor called Murphy back in June to advocate for funding to help NJCU and remains hopeful for support from the state.
“NJCU is an invaluable community asset providing meaningful educational opportunities that many Hudson County residents may not otherwise have access to while also serving as a critical lifeline for children with special needs through the A. Harry Moore School, now celebrating its 100th year,” Wallace-Scalcione told NJBIZ in a statement. “It is our hope that this audit will help NJCU get back on track to ensure the university’s survival and financial stability for generations to come.”
A spokesperson for NJCU said that the school had no official comment at this time.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 4:08 p.m. EDT on Aug. 5, 2022, to include remarks from Jersey City and New Jersey City University.