WPVI/WABC NJ GOP Gubernatorial Primary Debate from May 17, 2009
New Jersey exports a large fraction of its students to attend colleges in other states because we don’t have places for them here. Yet the State cut funding for higher education in every recent year. What would you do to strengthen higher education in New Jersey?
That’s a great question, thank you.
One of the things that has happened in higher education is a lot of money is constantly being invested in great new buildings. A recreation center perhaps, or a rock climbing wall, or some new facility the college can point to and say “look at the great new building or athletic facility we are constructing or look at the new professors we are bringing in and programs.” What we need to be looking at is real results.
What’s happened in NJ is because of the explosion of state debt and our funding of the debt we have taken the money away from higher education to put into the debt. We are one of the top states in the country to cut funding to higher education. With that said, we need to focus on results, to focus on a quality education system rather than the bells and whistles of a new building and new programs.
You know why students are leaving NJ schools, the reason they are not coming to NJ schools and going to other states is because NJ schools are becoming much too expensive. An the reason they are becoming much too expensive is the continuing 8 years of cuts in State aid that the Democrats have done to our higher education institutions. While at the same time doing things like this; Jon Corzine, as Governor, going to Rutgers University and his contribution to helping the stability of costs is to go and rally to unionize middle management at Rutgers to drive up their costs over the objections of the University president which has contributed to increased tuition at Rutgers, while he is also cutting State aid. He should be worried about helping to improve the quality of education and keeping cost down. When we start to cut back government significantly one of the places where we are going to need to look to help is for our students here in NJ and their higher education institutions. Not worry about unionizing workers at Rutgers, like Jon Corzine has done.
Moderator Jim Gardner:
Before we get to the next issue, I want to talk about taxes. Before we leave this I want to ask you guys a question about Rutgers University and what has been it’s recent commitment to gaining a higher profile athletically , which of course, comes with a great deal of cost. And in fact Rutgers scaled back its luxuriant plan to expand its athletic facilities, particularly the stadium. And I think it cost the athletic director his job. Do you guys philosophically agree with making Rutgers a big time, high profile athletic program with all the benefits that accrue because of that? Or do you agree with some of the professors that say “This is not where our priorities should be and we should be spending money on research and professors and scholarships”?
Is that my question?
I’m throwing it out to both of you; this is one of those questions I didn’t plan on asking.
May I? (CC nods in agreement)
I did play four years of college football at a NJ State College, William Paterson. As much as I love the sport, and it was one of the best times of my life. We need to focus on the quality of education. Not for millions of dollars to athletic facilities. When we have the programs that are good enough to draw attention, fine, but to take the approach of build it they will com, we can’t afford that right now.
The chances are that the success of the football team a couple of years ago brought more national attention, positive national attention, than anything else it has done in a very long time. Whether that is right or wrong that is the reality.
And the minute that the success ended the attention dried up and we are left with the debt of having to build this stadium at $10,000 or $100,000 a seat, or whatever crazy number, it’s taking away from quality education for students. These programs should have to sustain themselves.
Jim, here’s the story: I don’t believe the success of Rutgers football has ended. I’ve met Coach Schiano. I know him and I think he’s a leader. And we need more people in universities who are leaders. So I commend Coach Schiano for what he is trying to do at the University. He’s got a job to do and he’s trying to do it.
The task of the Governor is to set priorities, and the priority we have to set is to make sure we keep tuition affordable. And anything that contributes to diminishing our ability to keep tuition affordable is not going to be a priority in a Christie administration. The first priority is going to be keeping NJ students here. Because what will happen is when those kids leave to go to school in other states they will very often stay there. It’s a brain drain from NJ. It’s a culture drain from NJ. And so we need make sure to keep tuition reasonable. That’s the way we are going to get Rutgers growing. But I don’t think our football success is over. I think Coach Schiano is going to have more success in the future.