HOT-TOPIC_01Former Brookdale Community College president Peter Burnham, who went to prison for defrauding the Lincroft institution, is out and talking about what led him there, Tuesday.

“There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance, and I crossed that line,” 71-year-old Burnham told an audience at the annual meeting of the American Association of Community Colleges in Chicago last week, reported, citing and earlier account by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Burnham, of Colts Neck, had served as the county college’s president for two decades when he resigned in 2011 amid questions over his lavish pay — a salary of $216,000 — and perks.

He pleaded guilty in 2012 to defrauding the school out of $40,000 and admitted bilking the federal government and Monmouth University out of $20,000 in student aid after he quit in disgrace.


Burnham was sentenced to up to five years in prison for official misconduct and theft. But he was released to a halfway house after two years, he said.

Due to prison overcrowding, Burnham ended up in a maximum security prison in Cumberland County.

“I was told I’d end up in a country-club prison,” he said. “I ended up in maximum security.”

He told fellow inmates he had a Ph.D., but most didn’t know what that was.

“They all thought I was a medical doctor, so they started to come to me with every ailment,” he said. “After a while, I gave in. I’d tell them to take two aspirins and if it persists, go see the nurse.”

At the conference in Chicago, Burnham passed out business cards and said he wants to get a job in education, if he can.

“I’ll always have a scarlet letter. I’ll never be a college president,” he said.