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New Rutgers president working on school's bottom line

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Robert Barchi addresses questions from reporters at a media session in New Brunswick on Tuesday. (Aaron Houston / NJBIZ)
Robert Barchi addresses questions from reporters at a media session in New Brunswick on Tuesday. (Aaron Houston / NJBIZ)

Robert Barchi began his tenure as president of Rutgers University by sounding more like a businessman than an educator.

In a meeting with the media in New Brunswick on Tuesday, the former president of Thomas Jefferson University, in Philadelphia, and provost of University of Pennsylvania discussed the future of the school in business terms — due diligence, investments, competition and bottom lines. Barchi believes public-private partnerships will be a driving force for the school.

"I have already begun discussions with a number of businesses about public-private partnerships," Barchi said. "They will be a key part of my agenda. I think a great university like Rutgers needs to transfer its intellectual property and knowledge to the community."

Among his top priorities, he said, are the coming higher education bond issue and development of a strategic plan for the school's three campuses. Barchi already has penned a letter to alumni to support the fall referendum on a $750 million bonding question, and said Tuesday if Rutgers is to compete with major universities around the nation, investments in the school's infrastructure will be needed.

"There are some things I would personally like to see happen, and there are some things that I believe the Rutgers community has to decide it wants to happen, so one of the first things we're going to do this year is to take on a strategic planning process," Barchi said. "We want a university that moves from good to great, and we have all of the necessary elements to do that."

Barchi said one of his jobs is to convince legislators that funding higher education is less about dividing up a pie, but more about what the pie needs to be to meet the state's needs.

Barchi said Rutgers will need to build physically and academically "to take this place to a university that can really fulfill its mission to create the next generation of an educated citizenry for New Jersey, to drive the business of the New Jersey economy."

Among the other items on his immediate "to-do" list is vetting the feasibility of taking on the assets of UMDNJ, which Barchi believes Rutgers can and should do, as well as getting the two governing boards of the school to agree to the reorganization legislation by July 1, 2013.

Barchi said another impending challenge is decreasing the school's reliance on state funding and the athletics department's reliance on school funding. He said a combination of public-private partnerships and increased fundraising should reduce the state's financial contribution from the current 22 percent of the school's budget.

Barchi said athletics director Tim Pernetti has already delivered a "deficit reduction" plan for his department, and the school is contributing $1 million less to support the athletic programs than it did last year.

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