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Critic: Rutgers reorganization would cost hundreds of millions

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As the Senate budget and appropriations committee meets today to discuss the total costs for a bill reorganizing the state's higher education, one critic calls the expected price "laughable."

Andrew Shankman, a history professor and coordinator for the Save Rutgers-Camden group, said refinancing Rutgers University's current bonds before participating in any transfer of assets would require between $155 million and $255 million — eclipsing published reports this morning that put the cost in the tens of millions of dollars.

"Tens of millions of dollars is the grossest understatement," Shankman said. Under Gov. Chris Christie's restructuring proposal, Rutgers would absorb about a quarter of the assets of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, which he said would cost $40 million, according to a preliminary estimate. "Now Rutgers is going to have to, under the current bill, merge virtually all of UMDNJ. … If 23 percent costs possibly $40 million, what does all of it cost?"

Shankman said the refinancing of UMDNJ's $600 million in debt, as well as the costs of reaccreditation and other impacts, has yet to be explored.

The legislation would completely reshape the higher education landscape in New Jersey. It sets a July 1, 2013, date for new governing boards to go into effect for Rutgers-Camden and Rutgers-Newark.

Calls to Ralph Izzo, chair of the Rutgers board of governors; Rowan spokesman Joe Cardona; and state Sen. Joe Vitale (D-Woodbridge), a sponsor of the legislation, seeking comment were not returned.

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