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NJ Colleges, Universities Want to Know When State Will Deliver Promised Funds

“We’ll have to wait to go out on bond,” said Edward Carney, CCC’s executive director of safety and facilities. “Our deadline is probably June (to settle) or we’d be pushing it.”

Because under Go Bond requirements, institutions must match 25 percent of the state’s funding, they’ve typically saved enough money to pay at least some upfront costs while they wait for their grants to materialize. So all projects researched by NJ Spotlight remain on schedule, for now.

“We do have enough capital on hand as part of the match for Blackwood,” said Carney of a planned “one-stop” student services center at CCC’s main, Blackwood, campus, funded in part by $4.6 million in GO bonds. The college used its own matching funds to break ground, as scheduled, in October, and will collect reimbursements once the state is ready to release the money.

At Kean University, spokesman Terry Golway is pleased about a $41 million GO Bond award, which will fund three large-scale projects. A grant from one of the four pre-existing “contract” bonds that the GO Bond Act supplements will fund a new environmental conservation center in the Highlands.

“It’s really important to show prospective students we have 21st century facilities,” he said. “The environmental center extends Kean’s footprint. It will be centerpiece of our undergraduate program.”

Monumental Transformations

Kean and CCC are two schools using the funding to complete monumental physical transformations of their campuses. Kean’s new buildings join a newly minted science building and an academic classroom facility that opened this month. CCC has spent almost $100 million to modernize and add to its campus over the past decade.

As an advocate for the bond program, Christie joined New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) officials in Newark in September as they as they broke ground on a renovation that will turn a former high school into a science technology engineering and math (STEM) teaching and learning hub. The state awarded a total of $86.3 million, with $30.6 million coming from GO bonds and the rest coming from contract bonds.

NJIT officials wrote in their September 2013 Institutional Profile Report, “With the award . . . from the state of NJ the project is now advancing rapidly and we anticipate completion by 2016.”

The following month Christie joined Rutgers University leaders in Camden to break ground on a nursing school that will train 1,000 students at a time in a $62.5 million facility. Of that funding, $46.9 million comes from GO bonds.

In Glassboro, Rowan University administrators aren’t waiting until their reimbursement checks are ready to be written either, before breaking ground on their engineering and business school buildings. They expect to do so by late this fall.

“Those two buildings will allow us to double enrollment in those two programs,” said Interim vice president for University Relations Joe Cardona. “We can’t wait until those funds are available. There’s too much need out there.”

The state awarded $86.3 million in Go bond funds for the two Rowan projects, plus $33.4 million in other funding for several smaller ones. It did not, however, approve an application for a widely anticipated College of Health Sciences building in Camden, which was to house state-mandated collaborative programs between Rowan and Rutgers-Camden. Cardona says the two universities will launch programs without a building and figure out their capital needs at a later time.

Ramapo College’s president also got less than he’d requested and is lamenting that his $20 million award (none of which comes from GO bonds) falls far short of the $37 million he asked for. “I feel as president of Ramapo College that my institution hasn’t received its fair share of the bond money,” he told Inside Higher Ed last May. “We have received less than our contemporaries, and that is not satisfactory.”

Wilson says the treasury secretary and EFA’s executive director told him they expect to sell more GO bonds once they’ve disbursed the first $100 million and put up bonds from two of the four ancillary programs as soon as next week.

Other than the time it takes to draft and sign the contracts, they’re intentionally pacing their actions to get the most for their money.

“You don’t want to flood the market and you want to make sure the rates are advantageous,” he said.

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