Christie signs Higher Education reorg bill

NEW BRUNSWICK – Gov. Chris Christie signed the controversial higher education restructuring bill involving Rutgers University, Rowan University and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

Christie signed the bill at Rutgers University’s New Brunswick campus, which stands to benefit from the absorption of several schools that were part of UMDNJ. The restructuring plan has been tried in prior administrations, but has proven elusive.

“It makes what I believe a much stronger Rutgers,” he said, adding that will it will be competing for exceptional students, and more research dollars. “It’s a great day for all the folks who worked so hard on this.”

Higher Education Secretary Rochelle Hendricks said the legislation will help the state’s schools win more research funding. She hailed the bill as an example of successful bipartisanship, calling it an extraordinary day.

“After decades of analysis and indecision, (the governor and Legislature) demonstrated the courage to act and willingness to compromise to get things done,” she said.

She added the measure will help the state to retain more exceptional talent, aid New Jersey’s comeback and drive innovation.

The proposal became an emotional one as the original plan called for the total absorption of Rutgers University’s Camden campus by Rowan University, the leading school in South Jersey that would stand to become a research university. While the legislation connects Rowan and Rutgers-Camden for joint science collaborations, it does not merge the two.

Christie and several South Jersey Democrats supported the bill, saying the legislation will be an economic boon to South Jersey, which they claim has long been shortchanged in the higher education realm.

Sen. Donald Norcross, (D-5), of Camden, a prime sponsor of the bill, has said Rutgers-Camden will get to make its own financial decisions, something that was previously left to the university’s New Brunswick flagship campus.  

Norcross called it “a special day.”

“We will deliver education the way it’s never been delivered before,” he said. “I couldn’t be any prouder to be a part of it.”

Like many things, Senate President Steve Sweeney, (D-3), of West Deptford said higher education needed to change. He called today a “legacy moment.”

“Standing still means you die,” he said. “The Rutgers that we’re going to know is going to be unbelievably great.”  

Following the bill signing here, Christie had scheduled a second, ceremonial signing at the Rutgers-Camden campus for this afternoon as well.

"Sit down and shut up!"
—Gov. Chris Christie, to a Hurricane Sandy heckler