By Rebecca Panico | Posted November 19, 2015
The New Jersey State Comptroller’s Office confirmed on Nov. 9 that it is examining the fees that students pay at Kean and two other colleges.
The College of New Jersey and William Paterson University are also included in the audit, which will look into how the schools use students’ fees, said Comptroller spokesman Pete McAleer.
McAleer stated that the audit would inspect if the schools are “doing a good job informing students of where the fees go” and if the money from those fees is allocated accordingly.
A full-time, in-state Kean student pays $2,007 in fees per semester in addition to $3,782 in tuition, according to institutional research from the university.
Kean University spokeswoman Margaret McCorry emphasized that Kean’s financial management is a strength, as was recently confirmed by Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s rating services.
“Kean University is audited independently on an annual basis and is regularly found compliant with all Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) requirements,” she wrote in an email. “The University works cooperatively and transparently with all governmental agencies regarding financial oversight.”
The Comptroller’s office, which has the authority to audit nearly every government agency in New Jersey, was created in 2008. This is the first time Kean has been audited by the agency, McAleer said. In 2011, Rutgers’ athletic department was examined.
Money is top of mind at for Kean’s full-time faculty union after tuition and fees increased by 3 percent this year and the administration is considering layoffs due to a budget shortfall.
In June, the Board of Trustees voted to increase tuition and fees while Kean University President Dr. Dawood Farahi reported that potential layoffs – or a “reorganization” – to the library, Center for Academic Success and Equal Opportunity Center could take place due to a $3.7 million shortfall in the budget.
After Kean’s full-time faculty union protested the potential layoffs at a Sept. 14 Trustees’ meeting, State Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (Dist. 27), who is also Chair of NJ’s Higher Education Committee, expressed her own concerns in letters to university officials.
Jasey (D) met with university officials on Oct. 28 after penning two letters to the trustees and Farahi on Sept. 14 and Oct.8, the first of which she says was ignored. Her second letter said she had confirmed with the Comptroller’s Office “that an inquiry into Kean’s finances is currently being conducted.”
“By even threatening layoffs, you evidenced a patent disregard for essential staff and the students whom they so ably serve under the guise of cost savings,” she wrote on Oct. 8. “Should this move forward, Kean students will find themselves paying more to receive less.”
Mary Theroux, chief of staff to the assemblywoman, said Jasey was “appreciative” of the Oct. 28 meeting with Farahi, four administrators, and Trustees Chair Ada Morell, Vice Chair Michael D’Agostino and Secretary Dr. Lamont Repollet.
“We left on a positive and hopeful note,” said Theroux, who was in attendance at the meeting in Kean Hall. PowerPoint presentations were shown regarding the reorganization of the library, she said.
Theroux explained that the meeting “reaffirmed that there wouldn’t be layoffs per se, but that the professional staff would have the opportunity to be retrained, but there was not a great deal of specifics as to how.”
“We did not get the sense that it [the layoffs] was imminent,” she added.
Kean’s spokeswoman stated that university officials found the meeting to be “productive.”
“To minimize the impact of the reorganization,” McCorry wrote in an email, “the University will offer retraining and educational opportunities to any University employee affected by the changes.”
McCorry also stated that Kean seeks to reorganize the affected departments while still improving graduation rates, which internal data from 2012 marks at about 18 percent for students who graduate in four years.
“A thoughtful, strategic process is underway to reorganize these services in order to improve student retention and graduation rates, which are important issues for Kean as well as for colleges and universities throughout the nation.”