The decision to authorize $750 million of New Jersey general obligation bonds for higher education will be put before voters in November, after receiving approval from Gov. Chris Christie this week.
If New Jerseyans give their consent, the bond issue would be the first voter-
approved higher education bond issue since 1988.
“Improving higher education in New Jersey is about more than sending our kids to college; it is a decision about what kind of economy we wish to support in the Garden State,” said Republican Sen. Thomas Kean, one of the bill’s sponsors.
Christie signed the legislation, entitled “Building Our Future Bond Act,” on Wednesday.
Proceeds from the proposed debt sale would finance higher education capital projects to increase academic capacity in New Jersey.
Specifically, $300 million would go toward public research universities, $247.5 million for state colleges and universities, $150 million for county colleges and $52.5 million for private institutions.
Proponents of the bill say that New Jersey’s current higher education network is in critical need of improvement in order to support population growth and to avoid losing students to schools in other states.
According to a 2010 report from the governor’s Task Force on Higher Education, New Jersey leads the nation in net outmigration of college-bound students.
“For many years the state has witnessed a ‘brain drain’ as many N.J. students are leaving the state to attend college elsewhere,” the New Jersey Education Association said in a statement announcing support for the measure. “This impacts on quality of life issues and tax revenues. Strengthening our higher education infrastructure will go a long way in keeping our students in New Jersey.”
If approved, the bonds would be issued as serial, term, or a combination of both, with maturities of less than 35 years.
On Wednesday, Christie also signed legislation that would give public colleges and universities the option to finance capital projects with private dollars.
The bill would establish a new public-private partnership agreement option under which public higher education institutions could partner with private entities willing to underwrite the costs of construction.
Both issues will be on the ballot on Nov. 6 in New Jersey’s general election.