Higher ed leaders hope restructuring the New Jersey public university system will succeed this time
May 1, 2010
Supporters of a plan to restructure the state’s public university system and dismantle the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey say the effort can succeed after twice failing in the past decade because New Jersey’s political landscape has changed and it can be pitched as a money-saver in tough budget times.
But they know it may all come down to convincing Gov. Chris Christie — and the rookie Republican isn’t saying where he stands on the controversial proposal.
Privately, Christie has said he is willing to consider a restructuring plan, though he is not ready to endorse one. On Friday, the governor said "there are certainly things we need to examine regarding the higher education system in New Jersey" but he wants to give the issue further thought.
The idea was revived last week when Rutgers University president Richard McCormick confirmed he and New Jersey Institute of Technology president Robert Altenkirch have been privately discussing a plan to split up UMDNJ’s facilities across the state among Rutgers, NJIT and Rowan University.
The talks were not sanctioned by the Legislature or the governor’s office, but could help put the issue back in play.
"Is it something we should talk about again? Yeah," said Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester).
Revamping the higher education system first captured the attention of state leaders in 2002 when then-Gov. Jim McGreevey pushed for merging Rutgers, NJIT and UMDNJ into a Trenton-based "University of New Jersey."