By Joe Petrizzo
Building Our Future Bond Act — Public Question No. 1 — passed by a margin of 62.8 percent to 37.2 percent. Since the referendum has been approved by voters, New Jersey will issue bonds totaling $750 million to assist public and private colleges and universities across the state in building and equipping higher education buildings to increase academic capacity. This is the first time in 24 years that the state will invest in higher education.
Benjamin Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics, credits the referendum passage to across-the-aisle support in the State Legislature and was generally seen as positive by most demographics.
“The bond issue had broad bipartisan support in the legislature, as well as the endorsement of the governor,” Dworkin said an email. “It also had strong support among the business community and the general public. People understood that effective use of this money will help expand New Jersey’s economic climate.”
Dworkin also attributes this historic win to the enthusiasm of students as well as the efforts they exerted to help get it passed.
“I think it was wonderful to see so many students talking about this bond referendum and their interest in voting in the election,” he said. “The fact that the university provided a free shuttle bus for anyone registered with a campus address to get to the local polling site made it much easier for many students who otherwise would not have made it.”
Of the $750 million, $300 million or 40 percent will go to public research universities like Rutgers and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. $247.5 million or 33 percent will be distributed to state colleges and universities like The College of New Jersey, Kean University, Montclair University, Rowan University and Stockton College. County colleges like Mercer County Community College (MCCC) will receive $150 million or 20 percent. The remaining 7 percent, which totals $52.5 million, will be given out to private institutions with an endowment of less than $1 billion (which only excludes Princeton University.)
Since Rider is a private institution, it has to share in the smallest pool with other private schools in New Jersey including Seton Hall and Monmouth University. Rider’s grant will only amount from $2 million to $4 million and will depend on what the university chooses to do with the funds — which it has not yet done, according to an article from the Times of Trenton.
In any case, the chosen project must be approved by the Commissioner for Higher Education. Regardless of how much the university receives, Rider must pay for 25 percent of the project, according to the bond interpreted text.
Despite the small amount of money Rider will receive compared to other universities such as an expected $25 million for TCNJ and an expected $7.35 million for MCCC, students like Lee Clark, a junior political science major are nonetheless excited.
“I’m very happy that the act passed,” Clark said. “It’s going to help us develop our research and academic facilities.”