U.S. Ed Dept investigating merger, but unclear what power they have to regulate.

By Kelly Field, Chronicle of Higher Education.

The U.S. Education Department is looking into allegations by a U.S. senator from New Jersey that the proposed merger of Rowan University and Rutgers University at Camden was crafted “to benefit powerful political interests without regard for the impact on students, the academic institutions themselves, and the community.”

In a letter sent to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan last week, Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a Democrat, repeats allegations, made by opponents of the merger, that the proposal was being “pushed forward” by Gov. Christopher J. Christie and other elected officials in New Jersey to improve Rowan’s credit rating and “salvage Rowan University’s partnership with Cooper Health System to create a medical school at Rowan.”

John P. Sheridan Jr., president and chief executive of the Cooper Health System, dismissed the senator’s letter as “uninformed and bizarre.” In a written statement, he said the proposed merger had “nothing to do with the funding of the medical school” and “everything to do with correcting an imbalance that exists in higher education in South Jersey.”

An Education Department spokeswoman confirmed that the agency was investigating the senator’s complaint.


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