Lesniak And Caraballo Press For Higher Ed Options Review

TRENTON – The Legislature’s Task Force on Higher Education and the Economy will begin considering multiple merger options to create a world-class research university when it convenes for its first meeting on Thursday, November 9th, the panel’s two co-chairs announced today.

“We will consider several options for merging the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rutgers University to create the very best health science, technology and research university in the country,” said Senator Raymond J. Lesniak, D-Union.

“New Jersey already has the resources to be a national leader in the health sciences and technology,” said Assemblyman Wilfredo Caraballo, D-Essex and Union. “We want to attract long-term investments nationally in our research capabilities through a unified system.”

Senate President Richard J. Codey and Assembly Speaker Joseph J. Roberts Jr. appointed the 10-member panel and charged it with finding the best way to create a world-class research university and spur investments and job growth in research, the health sciences and technology.

“At our first meeting, we would like to lay out the options we’ll be considering like the 2003 “Vagelos Report” which called for separate universities in the areas of Camden, New Brunswick and Newark,” Assemblyman Caraballo said.

“We also will consider the options of a total Rutgers takeover of UMDNJ or of UMDNJ and the New Jersey Institute of Technology,” said Senator Lesniak. “There also is the option of Rutgers merging with UMDNJ New Brunswick and the South Jersey affiliates of both institutions and creating the University of Newark by merging UMDNJ Newark, NJIT, and all or parts of Rutgers Newark.”

Senator Lesniak and Assemblyman Caraballo also noted that other unspecified merger options from task force members or from the public could be agreed upon and that maintaining the status quo with no restructuring also remained a possible option at the outset.

“We can’t start this mission to achieve excellence with any preconceived notions of which option is most viable,” Senator Lesniak said.

“The option we are seeking is the one that will give us a world-class research university where scientific and technological innovations spur investments and attract new jobs and companies to New Jersey,” Assemblyman Caraballo said.

The two co-chairs also said they will create a sub-committee of the task force to assess the best way to monitor spending at all State institutions of higher education in New Jersey.

“The culture of administrative extravagance at UMDNJ is over, but we want to make sure such excesses never happen again at any State facility,” Senator Lesniak said.

“Investors in New Jersey demand and deserve a dollar-for-dollar accounting and that’s what we aim to give them,” said Assemblyman Caraballo.

Codey and Roberts asked that the panel make its recommendations within nine months of its first meeting which is scheduled to convene at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 9, in Committee Room 4 of the State House Annex.