College presidents say compromise is in works for Rowan merger with Rutgers-Camden

By Colleen O’Dea

UMDNJ Newark
UMDNJ Newark
New Jersey legislators are going to be asked to approve a restructuring of higher education in the state without knowing how much it is going to cost, even though one college president said to do it right will take a “very significant investment.”

Still, the plan to split up the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and move parts of it to other higher ed institutions is moving forward. Rutgers is said to now be in discussions with Rowan and officials from Gov. Chris Christie’s office over its most controversial aspect — the proposed merger of Rutgers’ Camden campus into Rowan — in a way that opponents find acceptable.

“The Barer Commission [that advised the merger] made some important recommendations concerning higher education in South Jersey,” said Richard McCormick, the outgoing president of Rutgers University, using the most supportive language he has to date regarding that portion of the plan that has been bitterly opposed by those connected with the Camden campus.

“Legislators have reached out to me, asking how we can best fulfill the goals of the Barer Commission and Gov. Christie without sacrificing that [Rutgers] name. I am currently optimistic that we will find ways of doing that.”

Rutgers’ leaders held their first meeting with those from Rowan and Christie’s office recently to hammer out the details, McCormick said.

Ali Houshmand, Rowan’s interim president, said the goal is to have “Rutgers-Camden remain as independent as possible and remain an urban campus.”

Still, Democrats on the state Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee used the terms “insulting,” “frustrating” and “beyond understanding” to describe the statement by Rochelle Hendricks, the state’s secretary of higher education, that a cost estimate likely won’t be available before the July 1 deadline imposed by Christie to enact the plan.


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