Lesniak Higher Education Restructuring Bill Approved By Budget Panel

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Raymond J. Lesniak which would ensure accountability and transparency at public universities and State colleges was approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today by a vote of 14-0, with one abstention.

“While our schools remain among the top-ranked colleges and universities in the entire nation, we need to do more to ensure that higher education is affordable in the Garden State. By increasing transparency and accountability of college spending and re-establishing a central, cabinet-level voice for colleges, we can continue to provide world-class education and keep tuition costs from escalating,” said Senator Lesniak, D-Union.

The bill, S-1609, would make various changes to the statutes governing higher education in New Jersey. The bill would implement a number of recommendations from the State Commission of Investigation (SCI) to make spending at State colleges and public universities more transparent and accountable. The bill would create a cabinet level position of Secretary of Higher Education to review spending and act as a Statewide advocate for higher education; would require the governing board of each college to establish an auditing committee to oversee internal and outside financial audits and investigate claims of impropriety. The bill would also require the president and chief financial officer of a State college to certify the accuracy of financial statements and would require that whistleblower protections be put into place for employees attempting to expose wrongdoing at higher education institutions throughout the State.

“An educated, highly trained workforce is one of the best incentives for businesses to locate in our State,” said Senator Lesniak. “However, while New Jersey can boast of having some of the best public universities and State colleges in the entire nation, standard best governance practices need to be established to control costs and enhance accountability.

The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

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