Higher-ed officials urge bond issue for capital projects

Higher education officials urged a bond issue for capital projects be on the ballot in 2012 during an Assembly Higher Education Committee hearing Thursday.

There has not been a higher-ed bond issue in the state since 1988, and the results are visible on campuses around New Jersey, they said.

R. Barbara Gitenstein, president of The College of New Jersey, said the lack of capital funds has forced the college to defer planning and construction of new science, computer science, engineering and nursing buildings and a new observatory.

She said their facilities are in good shape, but there are not enough of them to meet student demand.

The governor’s Higher Education Task Force, in its 140-page report issued earlier this year, recommended, among other things, the issuance of general obligation bonds to fund pressing capital needs at the state’s colleges and universities.

An analysis by Moody’s Investors Service in February concluded that enacting some of the recommendations, including issuing bonds, would improve credit ratings of Rutgers University and other public colleges and universities.

Committee Chair Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt said that “We need to have a vision for the future and a plan.’’

The state remains a major exporter of students and must reverse that trend by creating additional classrooms and additional bed spaces, she said. One of the purposes of the hearing was to gather input on best timing for a bond issue.

Gitenstein said that there is no shortage of students who want to attend college in New Jersey, but there is insufficient classroom space for them.

She said they need to ensure that they are building classrooms that will meet the needs of students – not four years out – but 15 to 20 years out, so that they are preparing students – not for their first job – but for their ‘best’ job. Higher-ed officials urge bond issue for capital projects