N.J. law creates more fiscal accountability for higher education

A law that will enact new measures to ensure greater fiscal accountability and transparency at public institutions of higher education in New Jersey was signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy.

The law will empower the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education to work alongside public institutions in support of their long-term fiscal health. It directs OSHE to implement policies such as annual financial reporting requirements and training for chief financial officers.

Specifically, the law requires New Jersey’s public institutions to submit annual fiscal monitoring reports to OSHE. It also gives the Secretary of Higher Education 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.

In addition to requiring training for chief financial officers, the law also establishes that the Secretary of Higher Education will set out their duties and responsibilities and, in consultation with the State Comptroller and the Attorney General, hold them accountable for violations of fiduciary responsibilities.

“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,” Murphy said. “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.”

Secretary of Higher Education Brian Bridges agreed.

“We have a responsibility to be good stewards of the significant investment students, their families and the state makes into higher education,” he said. “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.”

Legislative sponsors of the law include Senator Vin Gopal, Senator Joseph Cryan, and Assembly members Mila Jasey, Linda Carter and John McKeon.

“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,” he said.

“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.”