NJ ballot question focuses on funding colleges

GALLOWAY TWP., N.J. - October 24, 2012

Below, we focus on the first and its potential impact on the state's public colleges and universities.

New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney joined educators at Stockton College to encourage voters to pass Ballot Question #1. That would allow the state to issue $750-million in bonds, money that would be used to build, expand and equip labs and classrooms at New Jersey colleges and universities.

"We recognize how hard it is to ask people for money, but modern classrooms and labs are critical to recruiting the best professors to ensure that we have the finest higher education system in the country," Sweeney said.

According to school officials, Stockton graduates 18% of the math and science majors in New Jersey public colleges, but many students here are using labs inferior to the ones they had in high school.

Bonding on its own, Stockton is building a new $440-million science center to upgrade and accommodate demand, but it's still not enough.

"We built only 2/3rds of what we actually need so the bond issue, if it came through and we were fortunate enough to be a part of it, then we would add the additional 1/3rd to it," Stockton College President Dr. Herman Saatkamp said.

In this economy there are concerns about the state taking on more debt, but the proposal has bipartisan support and if passed, the resulting building boom could generate an estimated 10,000 new construction jobs in New Jersey.

And Senator Sweeney says it would help stop the so-called "brain drain" where bright students leave the state to attend college elsewhere and don't come back.

"We need to invest in America's future. New Jersey is one of just a few states that have not invested in higher education. This is a huge problem," Student Senate President A.J. Vervoort said.

The second ballot question in New Jersey asks voters if like other public employees, judges should have to contribute more toward their pensions and benefits.

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