New Jersey Looks to Borrow Millions for Higher Education Construction

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — The time of voting is upon us and in New Jersey it could mean funding for college and university construction projects.

If the state voters approve a $750 million referendum on borrowing for construction at New Jersey colleges and universities, projects would require a 25 percent match by the schools, increasing the value of investment to $1 billion. If voters pass the referendum, it would be New Jersey’s single largest financial commitment to higher education since a 1988 referendum of $350 million.

In order to get voter support, the “Building Our Future” coalition is kick starting a campaign to push for approval.

If the referendum passes, coalition leaders say as many as 10,000 construction jobs could be created in addition to long-term opportunities in New Jersey.

Although the economy is still getting back on its feet, senate president Stephen Sweeney said that passing the referendum “…is something we can’t afford not to do.”

Voters are in agreement so far as results from a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll issued recently noted that 62 percent of likely voters support the bond proposal, up from 56 percent a month ago. Only 27 percent of voters opposed, while 11 percent were unsure at the time.

“As we get closer to the election, support for the higher education bond seems to be solidifying, reflecting the lack of vocal opposition so far,” said political scientist David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll in a statement.

The referendum does have some restrictions, which will result in only certain higher education projects to receive funding.

The measure dedicates $300 million for the public research universities at Rutgers, New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rowan University. The eight state colleges and universities will be allocated $247.5 million, while two-year community colleges will receive $150 million and private institutions will be funded $52.5 million.

While the referendum seems steep at $750 million, it still will not be enough to cover all the “wish list” items that schools were asked to propose — they came in at a total of $6 billion.

Some may be wary to borrow such a large portion of funds, but others look at the referendum as a step in the right direction.

“This we all view as an investment, said assembly speaker Shelia Oliver in a statement. “This is going to enable our state to generate more revenue and to broaden revenue streams.”

The funding will also help to give students a better chance at receiving a high-quality education in New Jersey.

“It’s about New Jersey kids who are coming out of high school knowing they can receive the top-notch, 21st century preparation in our colleges,” said president of Rutgers, Robert L. Barchi in a statement.