New Jersey voters will be asked to approve a higher-education bond question on the November ballot that will allow the state to borrow $750 million to fund construction projects at the state's colleges and universities. Its an issue that has bipartisan support, but in the end its up to you.

Stacy Proebstle, Townsquare Media
Stacy Proebstle, Townsquare Media

At William Paterson University Wednesday, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean met with Dr. Kathleen Waldron of William Paterson University and John Galandak of the Commerce & Industry Association for a brief tour of the Hunziker building, home to the University's nursing, communication disorder and public health programs. The tour showcased why higher education institutions around New Jersey are in need of state funding for capital improvements. The last time New Jersey made a significant capital investment in higher education was nearly 25 years ago.

During the tour, William Paterson University officials explained why the Hunziker building is but one of many higher education facilities around the state in need of significant modernization to deliver high-tech classroom and laboratory space.

"The building dates back to the 1950's, it doesn't have adequate air ventilation or air-conditioners, its a very old building, there are not enough classrooms, there is not enough space for our students" said Waldron.

William Paterson University has identified the Hunziker building as one of their top priority capital construction projects should the $750 million Building Our Future Bond pass in November. A state-of-the-art academic facility supporting health sciences will replace the existing small and unusable space in the Hunziker building. The School of Nursing is one of the many science programs that will be relocated. The nursing program is one of only four in the state to provide undergraduate, graduate and doctoral level degrees.

The state's leaders say the funding is critical for keeping jobs in our state and helping attract new economic investment.

"If we are to compete with neighboring states and global competitors, we have to invest in keeping good jobs here. The Building Our Future Bond Act is an investment that will strengthen the bonds between institutions of higher education and private sector innovators that drive our economy and create good paying jobs" said Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean (R-Union).

"The investment will serve as a catalyst between hi-tech businesses and the state's colleges and universities - increasing innovation, spurring job creation, and preparing our future workforce" added John Galandak, President of the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey.

There is no organized opposition to the ballot question, but Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) says he understands voters concern about taking on more debt at a time when the state remains fiscally strapped.

"Sometimes you have to spend money to make things happen...its an expenditure, its a big number...but you have to send messages to the business community that we are going to invest in our infrastructure because we want you to stay here...we can't afford not to do this."

New Jersey is one of only five states that spent no money on capital improvements for higher education in the last five years, a list that includes states like Alabama and Montana.

"We just lost 1,000 jobs to New York, we need to stay competitive, we need to keep our workforce here" added Sweeney.


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