Citizens’ vote on higher education bond should deliver results

By Michael W. Klein

Executive Director/CEO

New Jersey Association of State Colleges & Universities

One year ago, over 1.5 million New Jersey residents voted in favor of the Building Our Future Bond referendum.  The bond issue was approved last November by 62.7 percent of all who cast a ballot.

To the voters of New Jersey, the leaders of the state colleges and universities are deeply grateful.  These institutions now want to solidify your trust and confidence as we construct facilities backed by the bonds.  We want you to know that your decision was the right one, providing a smart and worthy investment of precious public dollars.

About $1.3 billion in bond proceeds, including those from Building Our Future bonds and other recently renewed bond programs under the New Jersey Educational Facilities Authority, will generate jobs and give our students and faculty the top-notch facilities they deserve. 

These facilities projects, many of which are underway and beginning to stimulate statewide, regional, and local economic activity through construction and other jobs, will help keep the Garden State competitive and help keep more students in their home state. 

They will support and enhance classroom learning, research, public service, and regional development.  All of these benefits should be measurable and should be shared with the public.  Institutions are planning to do just that.

Bond-supported projects at our Association’s nine state colleges and universities will serve various educational programs and functions.  The construction includes multi-purpose academic buildings; science centers and business school buildings.  It will provide a nursing education center and a nursing and public health section within another new academic building.  It will also include science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) buildings.

The buildings will house, for example, simulation laboratories, lecture halls, high-tech classrooms, research spaces, greenhouses and computer labs.

The new facilities will serve more students, and in some instances, enable enrollment in certain programs to double.  Construction at higher education institutions statewide will smooth the path for thousands of additional students who want to enter the high-demand science, mathematics, engineering and technology fields, and the health science, finance and teaching professions, which are all critical to New Jersey’s economy.

Meanwhile, current and future students and faculty will have new places that inspire inquiry, are consistent with high standards and accreditation needs, and are capable of handling 21st century teaching technology.

University and college leaders have every reason to make sure the construction funds are well spent and provide the types of learning and research spaces which students richly deserve. 

Not only are their institutions’ funds on the line – institutions must pay for 25 percent of the cost of facilities supported by the Building Our Future bonds – they also recognize that state funds will be very closely watched by officials and the general public.  There will be layers of approval, including many state processes and regulations.

Thus far, things are going smoothly.  State agencies, including the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education, the N.J. Educational Facilities Authority, and the Attorney General’s office, are working closely with bond counsel and our institutions to assure that each project proceeds through due diligence regarding tax exemption toward the execution of grant agreements that will lead to official requisition of funds.

How effectively presidents, boards, and other administrators at the state colleges and universities meet these responsibilities is important for several reasons.  First, it is the right thing to do.  Second, it will influence whether the public’s trust has been well placed.  Third, it could determine whether the state invests in higher education facilities again soon.

Our Association and our institutions’ leaders accept these challenges and pledge to continue to earn your trust in investing in New Jersey’s future.

New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization whose members are:  The College of New Jersey, Kean University, Montclair State University, New Jersey City University, Ramapo College of New Jersey, The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, Rowan University, Thomas Edison State College and William Paterson University.

  Citizens’ vote on higher education bond should deliver results