The Office of the Comptroller of the University of Maryland is responsible for the financial oversight of the university. Its primary missions are to provide leadership in the stewardship of campus assets and to provide accurate, timely and useful information regarding the receipt and expenditure of campus resources. To accomplish these goals, the office has performed such diverse and essential functions as stock subscriptions, bill paying and auditing services, financial reporting, contracts and grants management and administration and maintenance of automated financial systems.
Although the comptroller was not a salaried member of the university staff until the 1920s, the University of Maryland recognized the importance of financial oversight. As early as 1859, a comptroller, often the comptroller for the United States Department of Treasury, was appointed to the Board of Trustees. In 1891, the position of treasurer-registrar was created and this officer presumably controlled all financial affairs. The appointment of a comptroller to the Board of Trustees and the hiring of a treasurer-registrar continued until 1918.
The University of Maryland catalog for 1918 records that Miss M. F. McKenney, an accountant, served as an assistant in the college administrative division. Six years later, Miss McKenney was officially appointed comptroller. She and four accounting clerks were part of a single administrative office headed by the President of the college that also included his assistants. By the 1925-26 school year, the comptroller's staff had become a separate unit called the Business Office; its staff consisted of the comptroller, four accounting clerks, a stenographer-secretary and clerical help. The evident importance of the comptroller during this period is reflected in the salaries of its staff. In 1924, the comptroller's salary was $4,000, more than many full professors, and those of its accounting clerks were comparable to the salaries of assistant or associate professors, $2,100-2,400 per year. The Office of the Comptroller was responsible for the finances of the university's experiment station and extension service as well as the university itself, as these units funded portions of the staff salaries.
As the priorities and structure of the university changed over the next seventy years, the comptroller's office often was shifted into new administrative configurations. In 1929, the Business Office was renamed the Accounting Office. Eight years later, the Division of Business Management was created; it included the comptroller's office and also directed such diverse functions as laundry, dormitory staffing, purchasing, plant maintenance, mail and transportation. Within this division, the comptroller's office was separated from the accounting staff. There probably continued to be close interaction between the two units, however, since the comptroller's office consisted only of the comptroller and a secretary.
In 1946, the Business Management Division was dissolved to form, in part, the Division of Financial and Administrative Control. The comptroller's office was located in this new division, along with the business office, accounting department, cashier's office and accounts payable. This division was slightly restructured and renamed again in 1948 to create the Division of Finance and Business. The Office of the Comptroller reported to the Divisions' Director; auditing and payroll were also placed in this division. In 1954, a separate office of the comptroller was established for the Baltimore campus, and the College Park comptroller's office once again expanded to include the accounting division.
The Office of the Comptroller underwent a significant change in 1971 as a result of a university-wide reorganization. One comptroller's office continued to oversee the College Park campus while a second office was added for the university system administration. The two offices were combined again in 1991, and this entity now reports to the UMCP Assistant Vice President for Finance in the office of the Vice President for Administrative Affairs.
The staff and responsibilities of the Office of the Comptroller were augmented and broadened during all of these administrative changes. In 1993, there were sixty-six employees and four subdivisions in the Office of the Comptroller: bursar's office, contract and grant accounting, accounting, and reporting and information systems. Each subdivision was composed of administrative subunits. The history of the office of the comptroller demonstrates the growth and development of an intricate structure at the University of Maryland from its simple beginnings in 1856.