Coutinho: Continued unanswered higher-ed reorganization questions unacceptable

TRENTON – The financial uncertainties surrounding the Christie administration’s higher-education reorganization – primarily regarding bond debt – are a concern, the head of the University of Medicine and Dentistry told the Assembly Budget Committee today.

In response to questions from Albert Coutinho, (D-29), Newark, interim UMDNJ President Denise Rodgers said the primary issue that causes concern for her is how bond debt will be dealt with and whether any will be transferred once the reorganization is completed.

Coutinho said that with an administration-imposed deadline of July 1 to implement this reorganization and with no financial information being given to lawmakers, there is a great deal of concern. Assembly Democrats have been critical of the closed-door nature of the reorganization plans.

“These big-picture issues are not resolved, less than two months before the closure date?’’ he asked Rodgers.

Rodgers replied, “If they are no one has told me.’’

And Coutinho responded that “We have a really rough road ahead. This is clearly an unacceptable situation.”

He also asked whether morale at UMDNJ was low, but Rodgers responded that it was not a problem of low morale but more one of anxiety over the continued ambiguity.

“There is not a sense of impending doom on the Newark campus,’’ she told the Budget panel. “We’re up to the task.”

As part of the huge makeover, UMDNJ will be reorganized into three entities: creation of a N.J. Health Sciences University, which would entail several facilities such as the N.J. Dental School and the N.J. Medical School; expansion of Rowan University; and Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and other facilities into Rutgers University. Coutinho: Continued unanswered higher-ed reorganization questions unacceptable