Gov. Phil Murphy was joined by several lawmakers, officials and other stakeholders recently to announce a legislative package aimed at ensuring fiscal accountability at higher education public institutions in the Garden State.
Officials say the three-bill package, introduced at a Jan. 19 press conference in Union, would implement additional fiscal reporting and publication requirements for institutions to ensure greater oversight and transparency.
Sponsors of these bills include: Sens. Joseph Cryan, D-20th District, and Vin Gopal, D-11th District, and Assembly members Mila Jasey, D-27th District, Pamela Lampitt, D-6th District, John McKeon, D-27th District, and Reginald Atkins, D-20th District.
The announcement comes on the heels of recent financial shortfalls by higher ed institutions here in the Garden State, such as New Jersey City University (NJCU) – a public institution that is in the process of bridging a massive budget gap – and Bloomfield College, a private institution that merged with Montclair State University to stay afloat amid its own budget crisis.
“When institutions are in financial distress, it is often the students and the staff who are subjected to the greatest turbulence and uncertainty,” said Murphy. “As public institutions of higher education, these schools are accountable to both the government and the taxpayers of our state. This legislation will promote greater fiscal accountability among our public institutions of higher education on behalf of all those working and studying at these New Jersey institutions.”
Brian Bridges, secretary of higher education, said that transparency in information is vital and that this legislative package will ensure students see a more effective return on their investments.
“By building a stronger accountability model, New Jersey can better safeguard the long-term financial sustainability of our colleges and universities,” said Bridges.
Cryan called the package an important step forward in bringing more oversight and accountability to the finances of the Garden State’s colleges and universities.
“The taxpayers who help support higher education, and the students and families who pay the bills to attend these schools, need to know that their investments are used responsibly and effectively,” said Cryan. “Financial accountability in the operations of our public colleges and universities is a key part in maintaining educational excellence and affordability.”
“New Jersey’s public institutions of higher learning are among the best in the world, and among our state’s strongest assets,” said Gopal, chair of the Senate Education Committee. “Yet these institutions can only remain strong if their fiscal houses are kept in order, if they adhere to transparency and if they remain accountable to taxpayers. Requiring public colleges and universities to submit an annual fiscal monitoring report with urge greater transparency and efficiency and assure that these institutions are acting responsibly and professionally as they aspire to prepare students for the 21st century world.”
Andres Acebo, interim president of NJCU, told NJBIZ in a statement: “NJCU welcomes and applauds every legislative effort to strengthen higher education in our state – especially the proactive engagement of the state to address disparate institutional needs. We believe deeply in transparency and openness across public higher education in New Jersey because this will ensure that we are always collectively held to account to the needs of the students and families that we serve, especially those from historically underrepresented communities.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 11:31 a.m. ET Jan. 26 to include a statement from NJCU.