Severance payouts and six-figure salaries at New Jersey public colleges and universities would be under much greater scrutiny if a state lawmaker gets his way.

Aimed at protecting taxpayers by ensuring public higher education institutions are more fiscally responsible and accountable, Assemblyman Ron Dancer, R-Ocean, has introduced a measure that would force these schools to earn approval from the state before granting any multi-year job contracts paying more than $100,000 per year.

Dancer's bill also prohibits the schools from giving severance or sabbatical packages to employees that aren't contractually obligated.

"There needs to be what I call a taxpayer and tuition watchdog," Dancer told New Jersey 101.5, noting steep payouts and salaries at these institutions are not only a cost for the schools themselves.

"College is expensive and parents do not need to struggle to pay for their child to attend while their tax dollars pay for vacations and severance pay of public-college employees," he said.

Dancer referenced a 2018 report by NJ Advance Media that found Rutgers University paid more than $11 million over a decade's time in sabbatical payments, contract buyouts and settlements to coaches and officials who had been booted from their jobs.

The average annual in-state college tuition in New Jersey is about $2,300 higher than the national average, according to CollegeCalc's 2017-2018 numbers.

Under Dancer's Bill, a school that violates the payout prohibition would see a loss in state aid.

"This is taxpayer funded state aid to colleges and universities," he said. "Enough is enough."

Public institutions contacted for this story, including Rutgers, did not offer a comment.

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