Keeping Tabs on NJ’s Public Colleges & Universities

OSC has issued a number of reports over the years evaluating NJ colleges and universities.

  • Posted on - 03/25/2022

Read about how OSC oversees NJ's public colleges and universities.

OSC recently audited Brookdale Community College, finding issues with the college’s purchasing and expenses. We do this work because Brookdale is funded by New Jersey taxpayers and we are tasked with making sure taxpayer funds are spent responsibly. Our Brookdale audit was just the most recent report we have issued on the performance and spending of public colleges and universities in New Jersey.

What OSC Looks For

When OSC examines a public college or university, we’re checking whether their expenses can be seen plainly. They also shouldn’t spend money wastefully, and they should be able to clearly explain why money was spent. If they can’t answer those questions, money may be at risk.

OSC’s job is to make sure that officials are being responsible with public money. That means they have processes in place to catch accounting mistakes and protect taxpayer funds. We also aim to make sure they’re following all the laws when they spend taxpayer dollars, and that they’re being transparent.

And of course, we always want to make sure public funds are protected from fraud. Someone could hypothetically abuse their spending power with things like fancy lunches or high-end travel on the college’s dime. It’s our job to ensure checks are in place to prevent and detect such fraud.

OSC’s work shows good examples of holding public institutions of higher learning accountable.

Compensation at Community Colleges

In 2012, OSC analyzed the compensation of community college presidents. That report made major recommendations around transparency. For example, the report recommended that community colleges publish the president’s employment contract and a list of their yearly expenses on its website.

Auditing Rutgers University

In 2011, OSC audited Rutgers University, finding issues with how the university buys certain services like parking for sporting events. That audit also found Rutgers repeatedly risked overpaying for certain items by going around the official purchasing process. The university also paid more than double what it was quoted to upgrade the computer system it uses for administrative tasks like human resources and expense reporting.

Mandatory Fees

More recently, OSC looked at mandatory student fees at three higher education institutions in 2016 - The College of New Jersey, Kean University, and William Paterson University. This was an eye-opening report. It found that fees made up almost one third of the total amount of money that students pay to attend. Also, in some cases, the mandatory fees increased without any clear reason. We recommended changes.

In response to that report, the Legislature adopted a law in 2019 that requires colleges and universities to develop written policies and procedures and to be transparent about the fees. 

In 2020, we reviewed whether The College of New Jersey, Kean, and William Paterson complied with our 2016 recommendations, finding that all three schools had implemented policies to make college fees more transparent and that they were publicly disclosing that they used mandatory fees to cover expenses like payroll.

Brookdale Community College

In its recent audit of Brookdale Community College, OSC looked at a sample of purchases and other transactions. The audit found that Brookdale didn’t follow a clear set of rules when it spent money. This added up to $790,000 in expenses that were at greater risk for fraud, waste and abuse because they lacked adequate documentation. OSC also found issues with how Brookdale managed its bookstore. When it didn’t require its bookstore vendor to disclose their political contributions that was a violation of New Jersey’s Pay-to-Play law. The college failed to enforce important parts of its contract with the vendor, such as carrying a specific type of insurance. Lastly, the bookstore bought books and other supplies without proper oversight.

Holding Colleges and Universities Accountable

New Jerseyans take a lot of pride in their public education system, and we have a lot to be proud of. As the taxpayer’s watchdog, OSC is there to make sure money is spent according to the law in a transparent and accountable way.

If you suspect fraud, waste or abuse, reach out to OSC to leave a confidential tip by phone, email or on our website.

Waste or Abuse

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Waste or Abuse
Government Waste and Mismanagement Hotline: 1-855-OSC-TIPS (672-8477)