Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Rushing Rutgers

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Rushing Rutgers

Article excerpt

THE STARS, it seems, are lining up, and many of New Jersey's top political players are signing on to a rushed plan to radically reorganize the state's universities -- even though New Jersey taxpayers have yet to be informed of many of the details, namely, the cost.

The latest incarnation of the merger plan is a brokered agreement among Governor Christie, top Democrats and at least one South Jersey power broker. It could yet come to the floor of the Legislature in the form of a bill introduced by state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, and it appears to be on a forced march to reach an arbitrary July 1 deadline.

Meantime, Rutgers University's governing boards have struck back, endorsing a "statement of principles" they wish to have observed, while leaving the door open to compromise. Rutgers' governors and trustees said Wednesday that they generally favor part of the plan that calls for the university to absorb three schools of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey at its New Brunswick-Piscataway campus, provided the state underwrites the cost.

And that's a big sticking point, since, as Staff Writer Patricia Alex reports, under the Sweeney bill Rutgers would be saddled with $600 million in debt as it takes on UMDNJ's troubled finances. The medical school component has been one easy to embrace, though, like many of the trustees, we wonder if the price at this time is too steep. Rutgers is not an investment bank. It is an institute of higher learning, a fact that seems to get lost sometimes in these discussions.

The enabling legislation, which is favored by many top North Jersey Democrats, also calls for Rowan University in Glassboro to be designated a major research university in South Jersey by partnering with Rutgers-Camden, which would be granted autonomy from the flagship in New Brunswick. …

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