By Dan Perez
Rider University officials have their eyes on the $1 million that would allow the school to build new facilities and renovate existing ones if a ballot question passes next month.
The referendum would authorize $750 million in state borrowing for
building and renovation projects within New Jersey’s colleges and universities. Rider would receive a portion of the $52.5 million set aside for projects at New Jersey’s 14 private colleges and universities if voters pass the Building Our Future Bond Act on the Nov. 6 election ballot.
“The state is losing jobs in the race to be competitive and this bill could help reverse that,” William Ahearn, vice president of University Communications said. “This initiative will help students to better compete in a global economy and will attract businesses to New Jersey.”
Short-term benefits of the bill would include getting people back to work in fields like construction and boosting the state’s economy while long-term benefits would include bringing more companies to the state and hiring New Jersey students, he said.
The bond proceeds will be available to 49 institutions in the state the bill would provide $300 million for public research universities including Rutgers University and Rowan University, $247.5 million would be divvied up between the eight state colleges and universities, $150 million would go towards county colleges and $52.5 million towards private institutions.
“The Secretary of Higher Education, with approval from the Legislature, would decide which projects get the green light,” Ahearn said. “If the bill is passed, schools could receive money as early as next summer.”
According to a recent poll conducted by the Eagleton Institute of Politics, 62 percent of those surveyed are supportive of the bond referendum. The poll states that 81 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 34 support the measure while 12 percent oppose it and 7 percent were undecided.
“We don’t want the approval rating to slip,” Ahearn said. “The question may be near the bottom of the ballot and sometimes people ignore the things that are far down. We are also encouraging every student at Rider who can vote to make sure they’re registered and vote ‘yes’ on the bond act.”
If the bill is approved, each school that receives money would have to
fund at least 25 percent of the costs.
“The projects would be restricted to academic and research facilities,”Ahearn said. “The funds could not be used toward anything that could produce revenue, like dorms or administrative and athletic facilities.”
Rider has plans for both campuses such as renovations and new construction projects, including an upgrade to the Science Building on the Lawrenceville campus, Ahearn said.
New Jersey has not considered a higher education bond referendum since 1988, when voters approved $350 million for the state’s colleges and
“New Jersey is one of only five states in the country that hasn’t spent any money on capital improvements for higher education in the last five years,” Ahearn said. “That list includes Alabama and Montana.”
“States like New York and Connecticut are investing hundreds of
millions of dollars each year in higher education facilities, putting them in the top tier of competitiveness for jobs and industries that hire from those schools,” Ahearn added
The referendum has bipartisan support, as the state’s Democratic and
Republican legislators support the measure. Gov. Chris Christie signed
the measure last summer and former Gov. Tom Kean is spearheading the
campaign to approve the measure.
“Nearly every group supports this initiative,” Ahearn said. “Democrats, Republicans and the business and labor communities are behind it because of how it will positively affect the state.”
New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-West Deptford) spoke about his support of the bill last month during his visit to Rider.
“We’re not showing commitment to industries that are moving to New Jersey from states like Massachusetts,” Sweeney said. “When those industries that need college-educated workers are going to other places because of those states’ universities, it’s because they’re making investments to say, ‘We want those jobs.’”
“For the first time in nearly a quarter of a century, a bond would allow the state to build up its academic enterprises,” President Mordechai Rozanski said.
“I hope everyone will support the referendum,” he added.
Ahearn feels this referendum will benefit the students and the campus in general.
“I think this is more an investment than just a bond issue,” Ahearn said. “This will help the state to bring in more revenue and will make higher education facilities, like Rider, more attractive to industries.”