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The latest on UMDNJ, Rowan, et al

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Bob Braun has a column today where he notes that, given the choice, Richard McCormick would choose the UMDNJ campus in New Brunswick/Piscataway over Rutgers-Camden. Of course he would, because even with the downsides and problems with the Rowan deal, Rutgers still ends up far ahead in any trade. The odd thing about Braun's column though is his concern over UMDNJ's debt. Isn't most of the debt with UMDNJ's Newark campus, especially with University Hospital? There is always the possibility that UMDNJ would try to sandbag Rutgers in trying to force it to take on debt as a condition of the merger, but otherwise, I am not sure about the premises of Braun's larger article. It might take a while to unravel UMDNJ's finances, but Rutgers should stand firm on the point that it should not have to absorb any Newark-related debt. In other news, Rowan University has released its plan for a hypothetical merger with Rutgers-Camden, and it is predictably bad. (Down to the opening graphic on the front page of the report. Ocean County isn't South Jersey!) The plan demands "equal" funding at the same level as Rutgers and NJIT, which makes no sense given that Rutgers is a world-class research university. Given the legislature's lack of inclination to higher ed, that means money coming out of RU's pocket. The report also assumes that there won't be a mass exodus out of the Camden campus after a merger, which is certainly being threatened by existing faculty and students. This all seems awfully ambitious given that the Rutgers board is threatening to block any merger, though that is basic negotiating 101. Even the likes of Greg Brown, the Rutgers alumnus and Motorola CEO who is very close to Christie, are objecting. Maybe Brown can be a useful counterbalance to the influence of George Norcross with Christie. Update: the Philadelphia Inquirer today has a lengthy feature on Norcross.

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