Citing infrastructure needs that have gone unaddressed for years, New Jersey's educational leaders told the Senate Higher Education committee that more funding is necessary in order to keep the state's colleges and universities competitive.

The group told the panel there was a need for a bond on the November ballot to let the voters decide. The last one was in 1988.

Rutgers University president Richard McCormick says every public college and university in the state is in desperate need of support for its facilities.

"In the face of funding cuts...every college is trying to patch leaky ceilings, crumbling buildings and cracked sidewalks."

Susan Cole, president of Montclair University, told the panel that when all of the state's colleges and universities, both public and private, assessed their total capital needs, the cost was about $6 billion.

"We obviously recognize in these tough economic times that is a lot of money. In 2005, our last formal statewide proposal was at a level of $2.75 billion. As you know that didn't come to fruition, today that number is probably closer to $3 billion...the point is we have to start somewhere."

McCormick said student enrollment has spiked in recent years. "The student population has increased 46 percent...about 140,000 students."

Cole cited similar numbers. "We're up about 17 percent, to about 178,0000 students."

She says New Jersey has been the only state in the nation as far as can be determined that has abandoned making any investment in its higher education institutions.

"As a result, each institution has gone out independantly to bond market and the students of New Jersey have paid the debt service on those bonds through higher tuition and fees."

Cole says the future of the state's colleges and universities is at risk.

"New Jersey cannot continue in this way if it is to have the educational and knowledge base that will keep the state competitve in the years to come."