A bill that would overhaul higher education in the state could advance in the Legislature today.
The Senate Higher Education Committee is scheduled to review the bill, S-2063, which merges the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey with Rutgers University, creates a separate board for Rutgers-Newark, and creates a joint board that would oversee Rutgers-Camden and Rowan University. The bill also aims to elevate Rowan to research university status.
Gov. Chris Christie, who initially proposed the overhaul, expressed support for the reorganization during a press conference earlier in the day.
While the bill doesn't include the complete merger of Rutgers-Camden and Rowan that he proposed, the measure appears to be close enough to gain his backing.
"I don't think it's significantly different than what I proposed," said Christie, who described the measure as a "really encouraging step forward."
Christie wants to have the issue settled by the deadline for the state budget at the end of the month.
"I am still as committed as I have been to getting this done by June 30 — we need to get it done by June 30," Christie said. "There's no reason not to."
The measure is sponsored by Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney (D-West Deptford), Donald Norcross (D-Audubon) and Joseph F. Vitale (D-Woodbridge).
It would allow board members for the Rowan board of trustees to become partners in the development of university-related technology or healthcare services.
Christie linked the reorganization to his current approach of describing the state's economy as improving.
"I expect good discussion and good progress in the committee hearing today, and I'm going to continue to work in whatever way I possibly can to be able to help the folks in the Legislature get to closure on this so we can enhance the higher education system in this state," Christie said. "Because when we do it, it's going to contribute even more to the New Jersey comeback."