Monday, May 10, 2010

Additional Mergers Proposed in New Jersey

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie created a commission to examine the entire state's college and university system. The commission, to be headed by former Governor Tom Kean, may propose that the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey be broken up and merged with Rutgers University and the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

The same merger had been proposed by previous administrations, but never gained serious traction. In 2002, then-Governor Jim McGreevey proposed an outright merger of the three institutions into one "University of New Jersey."

Kean suggests that the commission has an "open mind," and that the proposed mergers are only one aspect of a huge, broad mandate" - to evaluate the "overall quality and effectiveness" of higher education and to make it more affordable for New Jersey students to stay home for college.

The previously discussed merger of Thomas Edison State College into Rutgers University also remains on the table.

While these proposed mergers may be mission-complementary, they are initiated by the state, and not by the institutions. However, facing serious budget shortfalls, state officials may see that there are no other options besides these forced mergers. Institutional leaders will want to have as much say as possible in these discussions in order to shape the result in a desired manner. Otherwise, a full lack of cooperation on the part of the institutions may result in a mandate from the state that may be less than desirable.