Without cost estimate, N.J. lawmaker balks at advancing university merger

The chairman of the New Jersey Assembly budget committee says it doesn’t make sense to move ahead with a plan to reorganize the state’s higher education system before the costs are determined.

Budget panel chairman Vinnie Prieto says it’s troubling that the Christie administration has set a deadline of July 1 for approving the merger plan without knowing how much it will cost.

“We’re moving so quickly without having any knowledge. It’s incredible. We’ve only identified one aspect as $40 million. There isn’t anything else,” said Prieto, D-Hudson.

There is bitter opposition to parts of the plan, including the proposed merger of Rutgers Camden with Rowan University.

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Higher Education Secretary Rochelle Hendricks said Wednesday that the schools involved in the merger plan have hired financial experts to do a cost analysis that will be completed before July.

Assembly Republican budget officer Declan O’Scanlon expects the merger will go forward.

“I still have several months until I vote, so I have plenty of time to digest this as we go forward,” said O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth. “I think we’re going to get the answers in a timely manner that we need in order to make an educated decision about this big education issue.”

Prieto said the merger just might not be feasible in tough economic times.

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