State's schools want more buildings, more money

State's schools want more buildings, more money


New Jersey's public and private colleges say they will need $4.3 billion over the next seven years to restore existing facilities and build new ones - and that does not address the dramatic rise in college students projected this decade.

The 41 schools also figure expenses of $465 million to upgrade equipment and technology and $370 million for infrastructure. The numbers fuel an argument by the state's academic leaders, who say that without the legislature's financial help, they will be unable to meet growing demand for college education.

The fiscal estimates, compiled by the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education, are included in an early draft report that argues the need to expand college capacity.

The report also suggests ways the state could create permanent sources of money for campus building needs.

For instance, it suggests creating a "Higher Education Capital Trust Fund" backed by a constant revenue source. Other states have dedicated revenue streams at least in part to college capital needs.
Florida uses a percentage of gross receipts, Illinois dedicates some riverboat gambling money, and Pennsylvania earmarks some real-estate transfer-tax dollars.

Stable funding, the commission argues, would enable coordinated long-term planning by New Jersey's colleges. The state-run schools are generally autonomous by design, and their long-term master plans look more to their own internal needs than to broader, statewide policy needs.

As a result, the commission's survey of college construction plans does not begin to measure the added cost of new buildings needed to address projected enrollment growth.

"Most of the colleges and universities in the state currently operate at or close to full capacity," the report states.

That is dire news, given that by 2008, the number of New Jersey high school graduates is expected to increase by nearly 20,000. Given the percentage who currently go on to college, the state will see 6,770 more college freshmen in 2008 than today. The cumulative effect will be greater. The report predicts that from 2005 to 2008, New Jersey colleges will see an overall increase of 22,000 students.

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Date Published: Saturday, October 27, 2001 - 18:19
Source URL: The Philadelphia Inquirer