With less than two weeks until election day, candidates are touring the state, drumming up as much support as they can. And Senate President Stephen Sweeney is launching his own campaign throughout New Jersey’s colleges and universities to call attention and votes for the $750 million Building Our Future Bond Act.
Sweeney is calling it an absolute must for the people of New Jersey. “This is not a Republican or Democrat issue. This is a jobs issue that we all agree needs to get done,” he said.
The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey was the first of three college tours today for Sweeney meant to drum up support for the Building Our Future Bond Act. It’s a question voters will see on the ballot on election day. The act would allow the state to issue bonds in the amount of $750 million. Proceeds from the bonds would be used to provide grants to colleges and universities to construct and improve academic and research facilities. The universities would be required to cover 25 percent of the cost of the project. Sweeney says the act is an investment in the future of the state.
“The lack of investment, the fact that we haven’t invested in higher education since 1988, you can look and see what’s happened in the state,” Sweeney said. “There are less jobs in New Jersey in 2012 than there was in the year 2000. The fact that our unemployment rate is 9.8 percent tells you we have a problem. This immediately is going to put a lot of people back to work.”
Richard Stockton College of New Jersey President Herman Saatkamp insists the act is imperative to the state’s higher education.
“New Jersey ranks tragically number one in the total number of students who go outside the state for higher education,” Saatkamp said. “About 100,000 students a year in the United States go outside of the state. One-third of those come from New Jersey. The reason for that is principally, there is not enough room here in the state colleges and universities.”
Sweeney toured the college’s science lab, which was built in the 1970s. Nearby work is underway on the college’s new science building.
“Because we had to do the bonding and pay for it ourselves, we were only able to build two-thirds of the building that we need,” Saatkamp said. “On our own we could do two-thirds of what we need. Now if the state is able to provide funding, we should be able to complete the other third.”
But not everyone is convinced the act is the best solution for the state.
“I feel that college expenses have been going up over the past several years and I don’t know if voting a bond is going to send the right message in order to bring costs down,” said Richard Stockton College senior David Jonas.
Sweeney insists the act would not affect tuition and other student fees won’t increase. He says he will continue to travel throughout the state and educate voters on the issue.
Lauren Wanko reports from Galloway.