TRENTON N.J. — Voters on Tuesday gave the state approval to borrow $750 million to pay for new and expanded academic buildings for colleges and universities.
It was the first time in a generation that New Jersey residents were asked whether to allow the state to borrow money to pay for college expansions.
The money can be used for academic buildings on public and private colleges and universities across the state. Public research universities will get the biggest chunk of the funds. Because of its massive endowment, Princeton University is not eligible.
Schools receiving the money will have to put up $1 for every $3 from the state.
The measure had the support of the state’s higher education leaders and many prominent Democrats and Republicans, including Gov. Chris Christie.
They said improved and expanded facilities are needed to keep New Jersey high school graduates in the state. They blame the annual diaspora of New Jersey graduates to colleges elsewhere partly on a scarcity of seats in New Jersey higher education classrooms.
“This will not only help our institutions of higher learning attract and retain students, and in turn, industries looking for a capable workforce, but it will create jobs as improvement projects get under way,” said Democratic State Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver.
Critics said the state’s financial situation is so bad that it should not borrow money for any purpose now.
The state is among the most indebted in the country, owing $33 billion. Analysts said the financial implications of a college construction bond depend on the details of how and when the money would be borrowed.
The last time New Jersey voters were asked to support a bond issue like this was in 1988, and it passed.