South Jersey colleges share in $750M largesse

Posted: May 01, 2013

Rowan University learned Monday that it would receive more than $117 million in state funds to expand and improve academic buildings, and Rutgers University will receive more than $55 million for enhancements in Camden.

The money will flow from a $750 million capital improvement fund for higher education created by a bond referendum question approved by voters in November, and an additional $550 million in bond reauthorizations recently approved by the Legislature.

"This is wonderful news, a wonderful day," said Rowan president Ali Houshmand. "Such a level of funding for infrastructure is badly needed."

Rowan's share of funding will include $46 million to expand its College of Engineering and $40 million to expand its Rohrer College of Business.

Those expansions will allow Rowan to double enrollment in both programs, said Houshmand, who predicted that the new buildings would open in two to three years.

"We have been hearing complaints for years about so many students leaving New Jersey" to attend college in other states because they could not get into in-state programs, Houshmand said. "Until now we have not been able to do anything to prevent that flow. Now we have means to do so."

Funding for Rutgers-Camden will include nearly $47 million to buy land for and build a school of nursing and science in central Camden.

"This will give [nursing and the sciences] the space they need," said Michael Sepanic, spokesman for the campus.

The building will not only allow the school to offer graduate nursing degrees, Sepanic said, but will house laboratories for those programs as well as classrooms and labs for physics, chemistry, and biology.

County colleges

Gloucester County College will receive $19 million for construction or expansion of four buildings, including $8.5 million for a nursing and allied health center, $4 million for a center for disabled students, and $4.3 million for a college-readiness center.

Camden County College will get $8.3 million and Burlington County College $4.5 million, for general improvements and upgrades.

The Legislature has the option to review the funding plans, announced Monday by Rochelle Hendricks, secretary of higher education. Rowan spokesman Joe Cardona said it was unlikely that any would be reversed.

All schools seeking funding through the referendum had to make formal application early this year and demonstrate that their building plans would expand enrollment, were part of a master plan, and were "shovel ready," meaning construction could begin swiftly.

The Office of Higher Education received more than 250 applications from public and private college and universities, according to Gov. Christie's office. It recommended funding worth $1.3 billion for 176 of those projects.

Rowan and Rutgers

Rowan's plans call for creation of a 110,000-square-foot building for the business college on the Glassboro campus. Rohrer is housed in facilities built in 1923, the oldest classroom building on campus.

Expansion of the College of Engineering calls for a 90,500-square-foot addition to the current building, which was designed for 500 students and now serves 750.

Demand for engineering degrees is so great, Houshmand said, the average SAT score of the undergraduates it accepts is 1,340. "We're turning away nine out of 10 applicants," he said, "and most of them are very qualified."

The Rutgers-Rowan joint project calls for a 119,000-square-foot building on land owned by the Camden Redevelopment Agency.

Rutgers will also receive $4.2 million to renovate the architecturally important Taylor House in the 300 block of Cooper Street, which will house its English department.

Plans include building a "writers' house" on the property "that will be a place for free author readings and serve as a cultural hub" for South Jersey.

Contact David O'Reilly at 856-779-3841 or or @doreillyinq on Twitter.

Inquirer staff writer Jonathan Lai contributed to this article.

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