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.

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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