The Abandoned Rutgers Merger

Recently, Governor McGreevey and the Rutgers University Board of Governors announced that the proposed Rutgers Merger would not take place in 2004. "Complex structural and financial issues" had not yet been adequately resolved, including the issues of governance and funding. While some bemoan the abandonment of the Rutgers Merger, we should look upon the hard work of the Governor's Commission on Health Science, Education, and Training, Governor McGreevey, and the leaders of the institutions involved, primarily Rutgers, as performing an immeasurable public service for the people of New Jersey. There is a great deal we have learned that could be used to benefit higher education in New Jersey and the State, in general. 

Dr. Vagelos and the Commission on Health Science, Education, and Training helped to bring to light something those in the higher education community in New Jersey have known for a long time: there is a lack of collaboration among our State's higher education institutions. Each college or university looks upon itself as an island adrift in a sea lacking any other landmasses. The truth is that New Jersey's universities could be working together in many facets affecting higher education. Our universities could partner when it comes to research and technology. Our liberal arts programs could collaborate to create symposiums and programs to lure the best and brightest scholars and leaders from around the world. The higher education institutions could work together to create "Best Practices" and thereby improve administrative, academic, and student services at all schools of higher learning. New Jersey's colleges and universities are unpolished diamonds. Through collaboration on different fronts, our institutions of higher education will become the sparkling crown jewels they all have the capacity to be.

Currently, New Jersey is under-funding higher education. As inflation and other costs rise, the State has been cutting funding to our colleges and universities, causing our higher education institutions to increase tuition, class size, and cut services. New Jersey's higher education institutions are first rate, particularly Rutgers. However, with a steady diet of starvation, our colleges and universities are struggling. Governor McGreevey should create an initiative to adequately fund higher education in New Jersey. Such a move would limit the "brain drain" of New Jersey's students leaving the State, and would provide for the creation of New Jersey's workforce of tomorrow. Our State's economic, educational, and social structure would be strengthened in the process.

Lastly, the Commission helped provide a look into the inner-workings of our State's higher education institutions. Duplication and bureaucracy are hampering the success of our colleges and universities. The Governor should work with the leaders of higher education in New Jersey to eliminate waste and trim bureaucracy. Such an effort would assure taxpayers that money going to our higher education institutions is being well spent, and would cut the "red-tape" that angers students, parents, faculty, administrators, and alumni at our State's colleges and universities. 

Yes, the Rutgers Merger is no longer on the table. This does not mean, however, that the good work of Dr. Vagelos, the Commission, the Governor, and the leaders of New Jersey's institutions of higher education need go to waste. Rather, all parties involved should work to increase collaboration among our State's colleges and universities, work to increase funding for higher education, and trim waste and bureaucracy to increase efficiency and effectiveness. New Jersey's future rests on the success of our educational system, particularly higher education. Instead of mourning the death of the Rutgers Merger, all parties should gather their strength and re-dedicate themselves to making higher education in New Jersey a top priority.

Michael M. Shapiro is an attorney who resides in New Jersey and writes for  He graduated from Stanford Law School, where he served as Student Body President.  Mike graduated from Rutgers College, Rutgers University in 1998 with a B.A. in Political Science, and became one of the youngest people in the State of New Jersey to run for office of a major city when he ran for Mayor of the City of New Brunswick in 1998 at the age of 21.  Mike welcomes your feedback via e-mail at 

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