Governor Christie’s controversial plan to merge Rutgers University Camden and Rowan University to create a single public research university in South Jersey has gained the support of several state legislators. New Jersey State Senate President Steve Sweeney issued a statement detailing reasons for supporting the proposal and outlining suggested ways of dealing with the criticisms of the plan.
According to Sweeney’s statement, a major public university would create better educational opportunities for South Jersey residents. Although 30 percent of the state’s population lives in South Jersey, only 12.5 percent of the state’s undergraduate slots are there.
There would be financial benefits as well. Currently only about 55 percent of the money Rutgers Camden collects in tuition is used on this campus; the rest goes into the general fund in New Brunswick. “A recent $1.5 billion-plus list of proposed capital expenditures from Rutgers University showed that less than 10 percent of the funds were to be dedicated to its Camden campus,” said Senator Donald Norcross, whose district includes the Rutgers Camden campus.
A separately organized and funded university would mean that South Jersey would get its fair share of higher education resources — benefiting not only the universities, but the region’s economy as a whole.
The Rutgers response
Rutgers Camden had staged numerous protests against the proposed merger, fearing the loss of the Rutgers name. Sweeney addressed that issue, saying “the history, degrees, accreditation and identities of both Rutgers and Rowan should be respected.”
Rutgers Camden chancellor Wendell Pritchett responded positively to Sweeney’s statement: “Expanding on the core principles in the statement could help us to increase resources to higher education in southern New Jersey while respecting the strengths, programs and names of both Rutgers Camden and Rowan.”