For years, it remained one of New Jerseys best-kept secrets. But for young minority students interested in medicine and dentistry, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey had a solid reputation for being the place to study.
UMDNJ had an excellent track record for graduating Black, Hispanic and Asian students and had pumped real resources into luring some of the nation's brightest students away from the country's more prestigious and well-known medical schools.
But massive layoffs and fiscal mismanagement have led to the Newark-based university being placed under a federal monitoring program, leaving some minority students, like Omar Delaney, wondering if they should even apply. A native of Camden, N.J., Delaney has long had his sights set on studying at the nation's largest public health sciences university. But now he's applying to Howard University's medical school instead.
"I want my degree to matter," he says. "If the school is having financial problems and there are reports of mismanagement, that would ultimately depreciate my degree and my training."
University officials downplay the worries, pointing out that, outside of historically Black colleges and universities, UMDNJ produces more minority physicians than any institution in the country.
But the 51-year-old university, which enrolls 4,500 students and employs 11,000 people throughout five campuses, still has a long way to go before it emerges from its financial problems. Recently, the institution announced the layoffs of 120 employees, on top of the 100 positions previously eliminated through layoffs and unfilled vacancies. Many of those let go are minorities. According to interim president Bruce Via&&, the layoffs were needed to close a $25.5 million deficit in the university's $1.6 billion annual budget.
A report earlier this year revealed years of rampant financial abuse at the state school. Administrators acknowledged earlier this year that they overcharged Medicaid by $4.9 million, though a federally appointed monitor says the overbilling could have topped $100 million. The report also charged that members of the university's board of trustees used their positions to secure jobs for relatives.
On Dec. 30, 2005, a federal judge ordered a review of the university's financial transactions and appointed former prosecutor and judge Herbert J. Stern to monitor the records. Stern immediately launched 27 separate investigations and noted that excessive funds were used to host holiday parties and to hire political lobbyists. …