After months of wailing and teeth-gnashing, the architects of New Jersey’s higher ed reorganization are close to a deal that strengthens the state’s education and institutions.
The framework of compromise — still being negotiated behind closed doors — closely resembles Gov. Chris Christie’s original proposal. Yet, rather than allowing Rowan University to absorb Rutgers-Camden, it preserves and strengthens the Rutgers brand in South Jersey.
The basic outline has Rutgers University taking over the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey’s medical school, cancer institute and school of public health in New Brunswick, while Rutgers-Camden and Rowan join forces in the south. Nothing is final, but insiders say it’s the one most likely to greet lawmakers in the coming weeks. It’s the best solution because it solves the Camden issue.
Christie’s original plan — backed by South Jersey political boss George Norcross and Senate President Stephen Sweeney — called for Rowan to take over Rutgers-Camden. Their hope was that Rowan, potentially boasting a medical school and law school, would grow in reputation, bringing the city of Camden along for the ride.
That plan infuriated the Rutgers-Camden community, which argued a merger would strip the Rutgers brand from South Jersey and cause irreparable harm. Faculty and students would flee. The hoped-for Super Rowan? A pipe dream.
Today, the new compromise calls for a more independent Rutgers-Camden, with academics controlled by Rutgers, while day-to-day operations and growth fall under a joint Rutgers-Rowan panel.