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Ruiz, Cunningham Bill to Require Training for College Board Members Advances

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senate Education Chair M. Teresa Ruiz, and Senate Higher Education Chair Sandra Cunningham which would require training for members of college governing boards passed the Senate Higher Education Committee today.

“Board members are entrusted with steering an institution towards a sustainable future. From finances to rules enforcement and selection of personnel and services, board members have immense influence in how things are run at our state colleges,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “We must ensure that they are adopting policies which are ethically and legally sound, and will allow the college to thrive going forward.”

“Corporations routinely train their board members so they have the comprehensive understanding of ethics, budgeting and governance needed to manifest the mission and vision of the organization.  Why wouldn’t we require the same of our higher education board members who make vital choices on behalf of today’s students – and tomorrow’s?” asked Senator Cunningham (D-Hudson). “These are the bodies that set the institutions’ agendas, approve student fee increases and greenlight multimillion dollar research projects and capital improvements.  It makes sense that we should ensure that these board members fully understand all aspects of their undertakings and make sound, ethical choices.”

The bill, S-1833, would require members of governing boards at public institutes of higher education to complete a training program within the first six months of their appointment. The secretary of higher education would prescribe the subject matter of the training, which would include governance responsibilities, ethical standards, due diligence, requirements of the open public meetings act, and the open public records law. It would also include issues associated with law and privacy, and board member responsibilities among other things.

The secretary could provide trainings directly, or specify the entities to provide the training and certify completion. The New Jersey Council of County Colleges would be responsible for carrying out the trainings for county college board members.

The bill cleared committee today by a vote of 3-0 and next heads to the full Senate for further consideration.