In Brief

New Jersey to spend $400M to improve college and university buildings

By: - November 16, 2021 5:35 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy announces $400 million in funding for capital improvements at the state’s colleges and universities. Murphy made the announcement on Nov. 16 at Rutgers University. (Photo courtesy of the New Jersey governor’s office)

New Jersey will borrow $400 million to build and improve facilities at colleges and universities around the state, the first new state funding for higher education infrastructure since 2015, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Tuesday.

Public officials hope the funding will help persuade more students to attend college in New Jersey — and stay here after graduation — in a state that is one of the biggest exporters of students nationally. More than 31,000 students left New Jersey for colleges in other states in 2018, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Only California and Illinois had more students leave, data shows.

The state also annually loses 20,000 college graduates who move to other states, according to Rutgers Business School’s Institute for Social Innovation.

Murphy announced the new funding at Rutgers University’s Kathleen Ludwig Global Village Learning Center in New Brunswick.

“Right now, all across the state, our high school seniors are sending out their college applications. Our goal since day one of this administration is to see more and more of these applications headed to admissions offices right here in New Jersey,” Murphy said. “We need to stop letting our high-achieving young people be one of our state’s greatest exports. We want them to find the right college match here in their home state.”

Schools will be able to apply for funding starting in the spring, Murphy added.

Supporting capital projects with state funding helps ensure colleges won’t pass improvement costs on to students, he said.

“Every dollar we provide at the state level is a dollar that does not have to be tacked on to a tuition bill,” he said.

More than 88,000 students graduate every year in New Jersey. Murphy’s announcement comes as college enrollment nationally has plummeted since the pandemic started. New Jersey has seen a similar enrollment drop, driving public officials to scramble to reverse the decline through strategies like cutting college costs.

The capital improvement money will come from the issuance of bonds. Murphy defended such borrowing, saying he’s had many conversations with state leaders about “when should you incur debt and when should you not incur debt. When you’ve got long-term assets and historically low interest rates, that’s the time that you should be willing to put debt on the books.”

New Jersey has over $44 billion in bonded debt, a sum almost as large as the state’s annual budget, according to a recent NJ Spotlight report.

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Dana DiFilippo
Dana DiFilippo

Dana DiFilippo comes to the New Jersey Monitor from WHYY, Philadelphia’s NPR station, and the Philadelphia Daily News, a paper known for exposing corruption and holding public officials accountable. Prior to that, she worked at newspapers in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and suburban Philadelphia and has freelanced for various local and national magazines, newspapers and websites. She lives in Central Jersey with her husband, a photojournalist, and their two children.