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NYS Comptroller


Taxpayers' Guide to State and Local Audits

City University of New York
Administration of Fellowship Leaves

Issued: October 09, 2013
Link to full audit report 2011-S-20

To determine whether the instructional staff employed by the City University of New York (CUNY) who are granted fellowship leaves (fellowships), formerly known as sabbaticals, are awarded such leaves for authorized purposes and are in compliance with all applicable requirements. The audit covered the period January 1, 2007 through December 1, 2011.

Fellowships are to be used to improve the recipient's teaching skills, perform research in the recipient's respective field of study, or to conduct creative works in literature or the arts. Fellowship recipients are required to submit written summaries of their activities within 30 days of completion of their leave and must serve in the employ of CUNY for at least one year upon their return. Six of CUNY's 11 senior college campuses (Brooklyn College, the Graduate Center, Hunter College, John Jay College, Lehman College, and Queens College), granted 665 fellowships at a cost of approximately $57 million during the Spring of 2007 through Spring of 2011 semesters. At the time of our audit field work, 616 of the 665 fellowships had been completed.

Key Findings

  • Although the majority of fellowship recipients complied with CUNY guidelines, improvements are needed to protect taxpayer dollars and the integrity of CUNY's fellowship program.
  • CUNY officials did not have a comprehensive, accurate record of CUNY instructors who were granted fellowships during our review period.
  • At least two fellowship leave recipients were not eligible and should not have been granted them. These recipients were paid $93,632 while on such leave.
  • Ninety-six fellowship recipients failed to submit the required written summaries upon their return from leave detailing the activities they performed while on fellowship; the aggregate compensation paid to them while on leave approximated $6.7 million. Such documentation is important to ensure that the benefits of this taxpayer investment are being realized.
  • One instructor did not remain in CUNY's employ for the required 12-month period upon her return from leave. This instructor was paid $96,908 while on such leave.
  • CUNY policies governing fellowship leaves do not provide for recoupment of benefits or other follow-up measures when instructors do not comply with the above noted requirements.

Key Recommendation

  • Ensure that an accurate and complete database of all CUNY fellowship leaves is maintained.
  • Ensure that instructors granted fellowship leaves are eligible and comply with all necessary requirements upon their return.
  • Revise Fellowship policies to address potential actions to be taken in the event of instructor noncompliance.

Other Related Audits/Reports of Interest

City University of New York Kingsborough Community College: Selected Financial Management Practices (2008-N-9)

State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: Frank Patone
Phone: (212) 417-5200; Email:
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236