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Excitement as universities prepare science-driven lab construction

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When Gov. Chris Christie announced $1.3 billion in publicly funded higher education projects earlier this week, with an emphasis on science and technology, it was good news to schools that have put a priority on the so-called STEM areas.

State-of-the-art science buildings and laboratories that will be created are expected to provide an economic boost and thousands of jobs in the state over the next few years.

In all, the money will go toward 176 projects at 46 colleges and universities throughout the state. Rutgers is expected to get the largest amount at $357 million. About $82 million of that will go toward a new chemistry and chemical biology building on the Busch Campus. New Jersey Institute of Technology will receive $99 million, part of which will be used to transform its Central King Building into a hub for science, technology, engineering and math education and research. Rowan University will receive $117 million for 14 projects, one of which consists of new buildings for the College of Business and the College of Engineering, which President Ali Houshmand believes will allow the university to double enrollment in both fields.

"This is a tremendous investment by the state in our institution, Glassboro and all of South Jersey," Houshmand said.

William Paterson University will receive $30 million for the construction of a new academic building for the health program, which will be used for teaching and research.

"This is wonderful news for us," said President Kathy Waldron. "It will allow us to accommodate the overcrowded conditions and expand our enrollment in the nursing, communication disorder and public health programs."

Waldron is pleased to see the state supporting higher education in ways beyond just offering scholarships.

"This is a significant change in the attitude of New Jersey's support of higher education," she said. "It's ensuring the universities themselves are ready for the 21st century."

The projects statewide, many of which are shovel-ready, include cutting-edge research laboratories, computerized classrooms and cyber networks that will allow students and faculty to interact with colleagues around the world. The projects selected will benefit academic programs in STEM that are aligned with New Jersey's workforce needs.

"Our team looked for innovative projects that were in line with the missions of the colleges and New Jersey's needs," said Secretary of Higher Education Rochelle Hendricks. "I'm proud that higher education institutions in every region of our state will benefit."

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