Higher-ed reorganization, bond issue in Assembly Budget Comm. Monday

TRENTON – A major piece of the budgetary and administrative puzzle for years to come, the higher education reorganization will be before the Assembly Budget Committee on Monday.

The massive makeover of New Jersey’s college landscape passed the Senate Budget Committee last Monday after undergoing numerous amendments. This coming Monday, the lower chamber committee will examine the bill whose costs clearly are in the tens of millions of dollars but whose true costs may not be known for years.

S2063/A3102 encompasses the reorganization of higher-education health facilities originally proposed by Gov. Chris Christie. The landscape of higher education in New Jersey involving Rutgers University, Rowan University, the University of Medicine and Dentistry and other facilities will change greatly if this effort moves forward.

The plan essentially breaks up UMDNJ:

* transferring all but one school that makes up UMDNJ to Rutgers University;

* Rowan University taking over the School of Osteopathic Medicine;

* establishing a governing body for University Hospital, which will remain separate from Rutgers University;

* a separate governing body for Rutgers University-Camden.

The plan, which Christie has insisted has to be in place by July 1, has undergone numerous tweaks, including guaranteeing Rutgers-Camden some degree of self-governance rather than having it disappear fully into Rowan’s envelope.

The biggest remaining issues are the costs, which some have said may not be known for years.

UMDNJ debt is about $660 million, with about $100 million of that related to University Hospital, and $50 million to $60 million related to the Osteopathic school.

Of UMDNJ’s total assets of $1.5 billion, the majority will go to Rutgers, except for the School of Osteopathic Medicine, which over time will go to Rowan University.

Bond issue

Of equal importance – for some colleges and universities maybe even greater importance – is the bond issue bill that also will be handled in committee.

A3139 would OK the issuance of $750 million in bonds so colleges and universities in New Jersey can do something they have not been able to do for decades: build state-of-the-art school buildings to stem the outward migration of the best teachers and students.

The bill stipulates that only buildings that increase “academic capacity” would be allowed: classrooms, libraries, laboratories.  Dorms and administrative buildings as well as athletic facilities would not be allowed under this bond act.

The Assembly version being heard Monday has bipartisan co-sponsorship: Speaker Sheila Oliver and Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, so the bill’s future is bright.

Higher-ed reorganization, bond issue in Assembly Budget Comm. Monday