Codey, Roberts Announce Chairs Of Legislative Task Force Created To Consider University Merger

Panel to Explore Creation of Top-Notch Research School to Drive NJ Economy

TRENTON – Senate President Richard J. Codey and Assembly Speaker Joseph J. Roberts, Jr. today announced that two veteran legislators will lead the legislative task force created to examine a possible merger of New Jersey’s research universities into a top-tier school that would encourage public and private investment in New Jersey’s technology and research business sectors.

The bipartisan Legislative Task Force on Higher Education and the Economy will be co-chaired by Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) and Assemblyman Wilfredo Caraballo (D-Essex, Union).

“We’re at a crossroads, where shifting economies and declining federal funds may render the current structure of our research institutions obsolete,” said Senate President Codey (D-Essex).

“In this age of rapid-paced technological changes and intensified global competition, it’s crucial that we examine ways to streamline and strengthen our higher education system,” said Assembly Speaker Joseph J. Roberts Jr. (D-Camden).

Codey and Roberts said the task force would assess the potential for increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the state’s premier research universities – Rutgers University and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ).

The Task Force will be charged with looking at the merger and reorganization proposals outlined in the 2003 report from the New Jersey Commission on Health Sciences, Education and Training, commonly referred to as the “Vagelos Report” in recognition of Commission chair Roy P. Vagelos. The Task Force will rely on the framework proposed in the “Vagelos Report” as its primary, but not exclusive, basis to make recommendations to improve and expand the capacity and capabilities of New Jersey’s research universities.

Senator Lesniak, who first called for a merger of UMDNJ with Rutgers University earlier this year, said New Jersey already has a strong base in high technology, research facilities and professional training capabilities.

“Our goal is to restore New Jersey’s pre-eminent place as a national leader in medical research and education through the absolute best use of our resources,” said Senator Lesniak. “The task force will also make recommendations for establishing internal and external controls over higher education spending to prevent the type of waste, fraud and abuse that occurred at UMDNJ.”

“The changing economic dynamic of the 21st Century coupled with the Vagelos report compels us to take a look at the possibility of merging the state’s research universities,” said Assemblyman Caraballo. “There is no harm in examining and discussing the possibilities.”

The Task Force will be required to propose a detailed timeline and strategy for implementing any of its recommendations, presenting its findings no later than nine months following an organizational meeting. The co-chairs are in the process of establishing a schedule for the task force once the full membership is announced by the legislative presiding officers.