N.J. Senate panel hears more on university consolidation plan

Recommendations to reorganize medical education met with some support and some criticism in a New Jersey Senate committee hearing Monday.

The proposed merger of Rutgers University’s Camden campus with Rowan University spurred hundreds of students, faculty and administrators to rally in opposition to the plan last week. On Monday, dozens of Rutgers students protested the merger outside the New Jersey Statehouse

While lawmakers voiced support for the concept of making changes to develop strong research universities in the state, some questioned just how the plan will be implemented.

Sen. Sandra Cunningham, who chairs the Senate’s higher education committee, said she has concerns about how much the restructuring suggested by an advisory committee will cost.

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“We do know that anything of this magnitude has to have some dollars involved,” she said. “This was a generalized kind of thing, but how it’s actually going to come, who’s going to actually implement it, all of those have to come about.”

If given a choice, Rutgers would not want to turn its Camden campus over to Rowan University, said university president Richard McCormack. He suggested alternatives including a formalized collaboration between schools.

Roawn’s interim president offered a different perspective, saying the benefits of combining Rutgers-Camden with Rowan outweigh any dismay about a name change.

“We will end up having a vibrant world-class institution that will impact not only the economy but help keep the best and brightest of our high school graduates here, provide a level of scholarship and graduate program that this region needs,” said Ali Houshman.

McCormack also stressed Rutgers’ longstanding investment in Camden.

“The Camden campus has been an integral part of the university for more than 60 years. At the same time that other investment was leaving Camden, Rutgers continued to expand,” he said. “We have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Camden and plan to continue that investment.”

Sen. Paul Sarlo questioned the proposal for a partnership between University Hospital in Newark and the proposed Health Sciences University. He said a direct combination might be more beneficial.

No dates have been announced for public hearings on the plan. Those hearings will take place in Newark and Camden.

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