Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation last week that enacts new measures to ensure better fiscal accountability and transparency at higher education public institutions here in New Jersey.
Assembly Bill 4970/Senate Bill 3406 directs the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education (OSHE) to implement policies such as annual financial reporting requirements and training for chief financial officers.
Sponsors say the measure is aimed at empowering OSHE to work alongside public institutions in support of their long-term fiscal health.
In addition to requiring the submission of an annual fiscal monitoring report, the law also gives OSHE the authority to conduct comprehensive audits of a public institution’s finance and governance operations and to appoint a state monitor under certain circumstances that indicate financial instability.
“New Jersey’s public institutions of higher learning are among the best in the world, and among our state’s strongest assets. In order for universities to maintain that standing, they must be accountable to taxpayers with their fiscal management of resources,” said state Sen. Vin Gopal, D-11th District, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, and a prime bill sponsor. “Requiring public colleges and universities to submit an annual fiscal monitoring report will go a long way toward ensuring transparency and efficiency, as the institutions go about the task of preparing students for a 21st Century world.”
“Promoting fiscal accountability among our public institutions of higher education will not only benefit students and employees but will also help the schools themselves avoid financial crises that could put their entire operation at risk,” said Murphy. “This legislation will help ensure greater stability and transparency at public colleges and universities throughout our state so that these institutions can continue to provide New Jersey students with the high-quality education they deserve.”
In addition to the training requirement for CFOs, the law also establishes that the secretary of higher education will set out the chief financial officer’s duties and responsibilities and, in consultation with the state comptroller and the attorney general, hold them accountable for violations of fiduciary responsibilities.
“We have a responsibility to be good stewards of the significant investment students, their families, and the state makes into higher education,” said Secretary of Higher Education Brian Bridges. “That begins with financial transparency and the stronger accountability model this law now provides. By working with colleges and universities to safeguard those investments, we will ensure New Jersey is better equipped to build and leave a legacy of excellence in higher education.”
In May, the state comptroller’s office released a report detailing findings surrounding New Jersey City University’s recent financial crisis. Last fall, Bloomfield College, a private institution, and Montclair State University announced the schools would merge to preserve the former, New Jersey’s only four-year Predominantly Black Institution, as well as a Hispanic-Serving Institution and Minority Serving Institution.