New Jersey reorganizes state university system

Last week, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed into law a full scale reorganization of the state’s university system – a feat that the previous two administrations had tried and failed to achieve. The bipartisan bill will consolidate parts of the state’s higher education system into larger campuses and also includes $750 million in a bond referendum for capital improvements – the first in 24 years.

Through the package of legislation, which relies on public-private-partnerships to bring in new campus improvements, state aid to the university system will increase by $65 million this year with an additional $28 million going into student aid programs. The restructuring will take on a regional approach creating what the legislature calls, hubs of higher education excellence in the northern, central and southern parts of the state.

As of July 2013, Rutgers will take control of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) and Rowan University will be established as a public research university. Rutgers University will become a Top-25 research institute based on the combined outside funding sources of the merged universities. The School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford will become part of Rowan University. University Hospital in Newark will also become an independent entity, and maintain an affiliation with Rutgers.

The Boards of Governors at both Rutgers and Rowan Universities will have to approve the legislation, both are said to be reviewing the new system outlined in the package of legislation. In a press conference, convened when Governor Christie signed the bills he explained that $540 million of previously purchased bonds will be used to support the implementation of the new system.

“After decades of politics getting in the way of a desperately needed rethinking and restructuring of hour higher education system, we have again come together in a bipartisan way to put our state’s students, and our long-term economic viability and our future generations first,” said Governor Christie.