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Under revised plan, Rutgers-Rowan will share only health sciences

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The legislation that will reorganize the state's higher education institutions will be limited to health sciences education, legislators announced today ahead of a vote on the measure.

The bill will merge most of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey with Rutgers University, and will give additional authority to boards overseeing Rutgers University's Camden and Newark campuses.

However, it will not include a merger of Rutgers-Camden and Rowan University, instead creating a new board that will oversee joint health-science education at the schools. In addition, Rowan will be merged with the School of Osteopathic Medicine.

State Sen. Donald Norcross (D-Audubon) described the measure as a "great leap forward in the restructuring of higher education" in the state. He said the measure would create jobs and benefit economic development, as well as expand the size and national competitiveness of the state's universities.

"Most importantly for New Jersey, for those students, New Jersey will make that investment that will bring us out of the basement and take us to the top tier," Norcross said.

Norcross predicted Rutgers-Camden would triple in size over the next decade, due to increased state, federal and private funding, but emphasized "there is no merger," the term that originally was employed to describe the Rutgers-Rowan relationship.

In additional to the reorganization bill, the Legislature also is expected to give final approval today to proposing $750 million in bonds for higher education construction. Voters would decide on the bonds in a referendum in November.

Norcross said Rowan would benefit from the new board because it would receive research status, and added that the pooled health-science program would attract private investment.

"I think that it is going to be a tremendous move forward for the infrastructure in South Jersey," he said.

Sen. Joseph F. Vitale (D-Woodbridge) said the reorganization could cost $40 million, with an opportunity to recoup the costs in the future. He added it would be much less costly than the estimated $1 billion cost of an earlier proposal to create separate universities in Newark and Camden.

Rutgers' board of governors voted earlier this morning to endorse the merger with UMDNJ.

"Acquiring a medical school at Rutgers could improve Rutgers' standing among the nation's top research universities and dramatically elevate its position among research universities," the Rutgers resolution said. "The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (should) be combined with Rutgers in one configuration or another in order to better serve the residents of New Jersey and to build upon the state's reputation as the home for the world's leading pharmaceutical and biomedical industries."

Contributing: Katie Eder

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