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Credits key big surge in college construction

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Todd Miller, associate vice president of operations at Centenary College in Hackettstown, says that even before the most recent recession set in, securing funding for capital projects has never been an easy process.

“I think it gets highlighted and magnified with these recent times,” Miller said.

Miller said there's a balance to be found through a combination of new and old funding strategies, between relying on time-tested approaches and always searching for new opportunities.

That's why when New Jersey voters decided to approve a $750 million higher education construction bond in 2012 and Gov. Chris Christie added an additional $550 million to the available capital funding pot the following spring, Centenary looked to utilize it. Today, Miller says funding from the bond issue is being put toward additions and renovations to the college's administration and science buildings, with work set to start this summer.

“I think all in all, it's probably somewhere in the neighborhood of two-thirds funded by those bonds and one-third funded by the college,” Miller said.

That chunk of state funding has proven “essential and vital” for Centenary, Miller said. For instance, he says that without it, perhaps only one of the two scheduled capital improvement projects would currently be in the works, and the amount of time needed to complete them would greatly increase.

But putting all of one's eggs in a single basket is never a best practice. Miller knows that, and says Centenary is always looking for alternative funding measures.

Whether that be through public or private grants, tax credits or incentives, Miller says the college is open to all suggestions and actively pursuing them.

“There's incentives out there (that are) available that we're looking into tapping into,” Miller said.

At Richard Stockton College of New Jersey in Galloway, Vice President of Administration and Finance Charles Ingram said that while tax credits aren't an option since the college is tax-exempt, the school is working with a number of developers who would be able to take advantage of said credits.

As a state entity, Ingram says Stockton has seen its operational and capital funding decline “significantly” over the last 20 years, making whatever it does receive “critical to our keeping tuition down, future growth and meeting the needs of the citizens of New Jersey.”

“We're constantly looking and talking with developers, fundraising, joint projects, etc., for alternative ways to raise capital that the state has underfunded,” Ingram said in an email, mentioning the college's purchase of the Seaview Resort in Galloway a few years back as an example.

Rowan University in Glassboro didn't receive the most in capital project funding from the state last year, but the $117 million it did get (second to the $357 million awarded to Rutgers), has been put to use on more than a dozen projects, including two “major projects” involving the school's engineering and business colleges.

Joe Scully, the university's senior vice president for finance, said that while a large portion of the development around campus is “being funded by the university itself,” anything extra the state can then put forward is “certainly a positive.”

“We'll take it any day,” Scully said.

E-mail to: andrewg@njbiz.com
On Twitter: @andrgeorge

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