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Commission on Higher Education
Recommendations in Response to the SCI Report
adopted by NJ Commission on Higher Education, December 14, 2007
The New Jersey Commission on Higher
Education (CHE) provides coordination, planning, policy development,
and advocacy for the state's higher education system. It serves
as the principal advocate for an integrated system of higher
education, which provides a broad scope of higher education programs
In 1994, the CHE was created to
replace the former state Department of Higher Education to provide
greater autonomy and empower our colleges and universities to
expand opportunities for our citizens, as well as provide future
capacity and enhance the vitality of our state's economic development.
Great strides have been made to increase access for our state's
residents as our higher education institutions have grown and
charted their own destinies. As stated in the SCI’s report,
the Commission itself recognizes that “generally, state
college and university autonomy is working – and working
As such, simply restoring the previous state higher education bureaucracy
is not the answer to continue the quality development of our state's
colleges and universities. In fact, we do not believe that it is
in the best interest of the state to pursue any major changes to
the existing higher education governance structure. There are,
however, opportunities to enhance the current structure for the
benefit of the higher education community and the residents of
The CHE believes the systemic issues
raised by the SCI must be addressed; with individual institutions
being responsible for addressing the specific items in the report.
Our recommendations focus on the system-wide concerns detailed
in the report. We believe the principles outlined below can be
supported by all the stakeholders involved and will provide opportunities
for developing a more focused vision of higher education in New
The CHE in collaboration with the
state colleges and universities should develop recommendations
on the following findings from the SCI report:
- Strengthening state college and university
- Enacting Sarbanes-Oxley best practices in governance
- Establishing capital facilities plans.
- Defining and codifying state college and university
charters for maximum performance.
Recommendation 1: Strengthening
State College and University Governing Boards.
The CHE should develop a qualification
matrix including credentials, diversity, experiential background,
etc. for use in developing a board composition that offers the
highest probability of appropriate governance. Every board should
have an audit function, and board members should be formally
trained which could be coordinated by the CHE in collaboration
with the colleges. Any training would include presenters with
relevant expertise. This matrix should include additional specifications
that reflect the unique aspects of each institution.
Recommendation 2: Enacting
Sarbanes-Oxley Best Practices in Governance for Fiscal Accountability.
Sarbanes-Oxley was established
to provide greater accountability of public companies. While
the fundamental principles of Sarbanes-Oxley provide a useful
framework, not every provision is appropriate for the not-for-profit
sector, including state colleges and universities. Adopting key
best practices from Sarbanes-Oxley for use by the state college
and university system would be an appropriate response. The CHE,
in collaboration with the colleges and universities, should help
design, administer, and encourage compliance with financial accounting
standards in line with both FASB and GASB regulations. CHE should
help establish these internal control standards in conjunction
with the state colleges and universities and include clear procedures
for separation of duties and access of funds. Colleges should
employ aggressive auditing programs to assure compliance with
control standards. The results of these audits should, in fact,
go to the Board Audit Committees and to the full Boards.
Background checks for new employees
at appropriate functions and levels, annual disclosures of conflicts
of interest, and strong codes of conduct are critical for the
necessary oversight required and must also be implemented. CHE
will work with the colleges and universities to determine the
scope of employees included.
Both the President and Chief Financial
Officer of each institution should voluntarily certify their
financial statements, as required of public companies.
of the State Comptroller is the most
appropriate monitoring organization to ensure adherence to
and the Governor should establish guidelines
to encourage strict compliance.
Recommendation 3: Establishing Capital
Each college should be required
to develop a long-term capital plan and budget for maintenance
repair and capital improvements.
The CHE should be involved with
each plan, and as appropriate to each institution, help to execute
The CHE should be charged with
developing a state master plan, in collaboration with the institutions,
for capital development, and advocacy to support that plan in
collaboration with the New Jersey
Educational Facilities Authority (EFA) and the colleges.
Recommendation 4: Defining
and Codifying State College and University Charters for Maximum
We recommend that a joint task
force be established between the CHE and the Presidents’ Council to determine the feasibility of examining the existing charters
and systems, in view of the historic role of each institution.
The Task Force will focus on developing a system-wide plan to
improve academic excellence and outcomes for the students and
citizens of the state of New Jersey.
In implementing these recommendations,
collaboration between the CHE and the state colleges and universities
will be critical. As such, we should do everything possible to
work with the Governor and the presidents of the state colleges
and universities and all stakeholders to address the clear vulnerabilities
identified in the report and implement these recommendations
to fortify the existing governance system. These control systems
will help to ensure that the funding of higher education and
the use of higher education funds are appropriate and consistent
with state laws and monitored as determined by best practice
standards. The CHE has an important role to play in these improvements,
ensuring compliance with standards, establishing appropriate
guidelines for state colleges and universities, and working with
them to provide plans and programs to implement these recommendations
thereby enhancing both annual appropriations policy and long
These recommendations call for
the necessary oversight and adherence to the state college and
university guidelines and controls while preserving the well-understood
benefits of an autonomous, locally-controlled system. This approach
will help to strengthen New Jersey’s system of higher education
and increase confidence in it.