Gov. Signs Bill Reorganizing State Higher Education System

STATE – Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation today to reorganize New Jersey’s higher education system. The reform, effective July 1, 2013, transfers all schools, institutes and centers of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), other than the School of Osteopathic Medicine and University Hospital, to Rutgers, while establishing Rowan University as a public research university. Rutgers University will become a Top-25 research institute based on the combined outside funding sources of the merged universities, a move intended to attract more top faculty and students.

“Today, we give Rutgers University the medical school and research potential it needs to earn a place among the finest academic institutions in the world,” Christie said. “We also establish a framework that will support rapid growth in the southern part of the state and, critically for our most-vulnerable residents, we protect medical facilities that provide lifesaving care and services to thousands of people in the northern part of New Jersey.”

Secretary of Higher Education Rochelle Hendricks said the Act creates unprecedented opportunities for newly restructured institutions to dramatically enhance educational programs and increased federal, private and philanthropic research dollars.

“The changes enacted by this legislation will help the state attract and retain exceptional talent,” Hendricks said. “The creation of regional centers of excellence will aid New Jersey’s comeback by making it easier for our higher education institutions to create innovative partnerships with New Jersey’s worldwide leaders in pharmaceutical research. Today’s restructuring will help New Jersey win its fair share of research funding that has, for decades, been going to other states.”

The restructuring transfers the School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford from UMDNJ to Rowan. In Newark, University Hospital becomes an independent entity while maintaining its affiliation with the medical school and other programs that are now part of Rutgers. In Camden, the Cooper Medical School of Rowan University already has welcomed the arrival of its first class of students for the fall semester.

“A highly trained, capable work force is essential to New Jersey’s future, because it is the most important element in attracting new businesses to our state,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney. “That is what made this legislation so critical. Not only will it dramatically increase the standing of our institutions of higher learning, but it will, in the long term, create a thriving business climate for New Jersey. It is a win-win for everyone.”

“This restructuring will create a ‘perfect match’ between the medical and academic institutions in New Jersey,” said state Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex). “We have some of the best hospitals, medical schools and universities in the country and now they will be empowered to capitalize on their abilities to pursue research, to train new generations of doctors and to put New Jersey on the cutting edge of life sciences. This is good for education, for medical care and for economic progress.”

“This law will elevate educational opportunities for all New Jersey students, regardless of where they live,” said Assemblyman John Wisniewksi (D-Middlesex). “A great higher education system is the key to a great New Jersey, and thanks to the changes made by Democrats, this law will bring that positive change. The law signed by the governor is far different from what he first proposed and thus is actually workable and better for our students, families and taxpayers. Providing New Jersey students with the resources they need and deserve to pursue their dreams in New Jersey is the right thing to create a better future. This is great progress for our state.”

Primary sponsors of A-3102/S-2063 were Assemblymembers Thomas Giblin (D-Essex, Passaic), Vincent Prieto (D-Bergen, Hudson), Celeste Riley (D-Cumberland, Gloucester, Salem), and John Wisniewski (D- Middlesex), and Senators Stephen M. Sweeney (D-Cumberland, Gloucester, Salem), Donald Norcross (D-Camden, Gloucester), and Joseph F. Vitale (D-Middlesex).

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