Colleges Ready to Build with $750M Bond

By Alex, Patricia | The Record (Bergen County, NJ), November 10, 2012 | Go to article overview

Colleges Ready to Build with $750M Bond


Alex, Patricia, The Record (Bergen County, NJ)


School officials are eager to get going on building projects to be funded by a $750 million bond approved by voters on Tuesday.

The money will fund construction and renovation of classrooms, laboratories and libraries at colleges and universities statewide, and create an estimated 10,000 construction jobs.

New Jersey voters overwhelming approved the borrowing, with nearly 63 percent voting "yes" on Question 1 on Tuesday's ballot, according to unofficial tallies from the state Division of Elections.

The measure passed in all of the state's counties, handily in most, with the help of a significant push from a bipartisan coalition that raised $1.9 million -- mostly from unions and businesses -- to promote the bond.

"It was hard to ignore the message that this was a good investment and not just more spending," said Bill Hildebrand, spokesman for the Building Our Future coalition.

The group bought airtime on radio and cable television -- including a spot featuring Eric LaGrand, the Rutgers football player who was paralyzed making a tackle in 2010 and has become a beloved figure in the state. It enlisted college presidents and politicians, including former Gov. Tom Kean, to pitch the bond to editorial boards at local newspapers.

The coalition also targeted mailings to democratic households and suburban women, two groups it believed would support the initiative, Hildebrand said. And it organized rallies at college campuses and urged students to vote for the bond.

Some of the rallies and get out the vote efforts were derailed by superstorm Sandy, but it turned out the measure didn't need the last- minute push.

Voters seemed to put aside concerns that the state was already too much in debt in supporting the measure. In all, nearly 1.4 million voted "yes" for the bond versus just under 822,000 voting "no."

The bond is the first statewide capital funding for higher education since 1988. In the interim, colleges and universities have gone into significant debt to finance building projects as enrollment boomed. Those costs have been borne by the students, who pay tuition, while the bond will be financed by the state's taxpayers.

Public, private colleges

The bond will fund projects at 66 schools, both public and private, and schools will pay 25 percent of the cost. …

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