Christie signs historic legislation

Christie signs historic legislation

Plan will restructure higher education, transform Rowan.

Gov. Chris Christie signed historic legislation on Wednesday, August 22, that restructures higher education in New Jersey, establishing Rowan University as only the state’s second comprehensive research institution and positioning the University to significantly impact health care in the region.

The legislation signed in South Jersey by Christie at a ceremony at Rutgers University-Camden, designates Rowan as a research institution and calls for the University to enter into partnerships with both Rutgers-Camden and the School of Osteopathic Medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) in Stratford.

Under the legislation, formally known as the New Jersey Medical and Health Sciences Restructuring Act, Rowan and Rutgers-Camden will collaborate to establish a new College of Health Sciences in the City of Camden. The college, which will have an independent board, will serve as a hub of medical research in the city, which will stimulate the regional economy, lawmakers said.

The legislation also calls for Rowan to absorb UMDNJ’s School of Osteopathic Medicine. In doing so, the University will become only the second institution in the nation—behind Michigan State University—to have both an M.D.-granting medical school and an osteopathic medical school.

Cooper Medical School of Rowan University (CMSRU), a partnership between Rowan and The Cooper Health System, welcomed its charter class of 50 medical students just last week. The first new medical school in the state in more than 35 years, CMSRU is the first M.D.-granting institution in South Jersey.

Under the legislation, Rutgers University in New Brunswick will partner with the rest of UMDNJ, overseeing medical schools in New Brunswick and Newark, plus nursing and dental schools. Before signing the law in Camden, Christie also signed the bill at Rutgers-New Brunswick.

The result of the legislation will be a better, stronger educational system in New Jersey, one that also will spur the state’s economy and provide state residents with world-class educational opportunities, Christie told the crowd in Camden.

Six months ago, Christie unveiled his plan for higher education that included a plan to merge Rowan and Rutgers-Camden. The legislation he signed, overwhelmingly approved by the state Legislature on June 28, does not include a merger of Rowan and Rutgers-Camden, as he proposed. Instead, it calls for a significant partnership between Rowan and Rutgers-Camden. It’s a collaboration that will help Camden—and South Jersey—grow and thrive, Christie said.

Research designation

Rowan’s designation as a research institution gives the University myriad opportunities to develop in-demand professional degree programs as well as expand undergraduate academic offerings. Additionally, Christie said, “South Jersey students can stay home and receive a world-class education at an affordable price.”

Senate President Steve Sweeney said the legislation heralds a new day in New Jersey, establishing the state as a national model for higher education, medical education and economic development. The restructuring will enable the state to attract clean industry—such as biomedicine and pharmaceuticals—to South Jersey and will also improve the health care of citizens by strengthening medical care in the region, he said.

“This is a legacy day for the State of New Jersey,” Sweeney said. “This is one of the most significant steps the state has taken in at least decades.”

Rowan President Ali Houshmand joined New Jersey’s Secretary for Higher Education Rochelle Hendricks, Sen. Donald Norcross, former Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts, Jr., Assembly Higher Education Committee Chair Celeste Riley, and Rutgers-Camden Chancellor Wendell Pritchett to witness Christie’s signing of the legislation.

“While this legislation will transform our University in ways we can’t even imagine and, in turn, transform the region, we won’t lose sight of our core mission—to provide a high quality undergraduate education at a great value,” Houshmand said.

Hendricks noted that the restructuring of higher education in New Jersey was something that has been discussed for years. The legislation, she said, creates “deep and meaningful partnerships,” setting a “blueprint of higher education excellence.

“This momentous day, decades in the making, is finally here and we are its witnesses,” she said.

The legislation will go into effective July 1, 2013. Rowan will work with UMDNJ over the coming months to ensure a smooth transfer of the School of Osteopathic Medicine to Rowan.