The new law, which won unanimous support in both legislative chambers, follows financial troubles at William Paterson University and New Jersey City University. (Courtesy of New Jersey State University)
New Jersey’s state colleges are coming under new oversight after financial troubles at two universities blindsided lawmakers and students.
Under a bill Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law last week, public colleges must submit to regular audits and file annual fiscal monitoring reports with state regulators.
“We have a responsibility to be good stewards of the significant investment students, their families and the state makes into higher education,” Secretary of Higher Education Brian K. Bridges said in a statement. “That begins with financial transparency and the stronger accountability model this law now provides.”
The new law, which won unanimous support in both legislative chambers, follows financial troubles at William Paterson University and New Jersey City University.
William Paterson made broad layoffs in late 2021 after amassing a $30 million budget deficit, and New Jersey City University declared a fiscal emergency in June 2022 that drew calls for a comptroller investigation.
The law will require additional training for university chief financial officers and allow the state to appoint fiscal monitors at schools with troubled finances.
“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 Sen. Joe Cryan (D-Union), one of the bill’s sponsors.
University finances took a hit during the pandemic as enrollment sagged, and the American Federation of Teachers of New Jersey, a labor union, has warned that more schools will face dire financial straits in the coming years.
The added oversight will help spot those fiscal cliffs before colleges drive off them, supporters said.
“The transparency will help students and their families make an informed decision about their college choice, confident that the institution will be positioned to meet their individual needs,” said Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-Essex), who chairs the chamber’s Higher Education Committee.
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