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President Richard L. McCormick Cites Integration with Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Passage of Higher Education Bond Issue Key for Rutgers, State's Future Greatness
Lauds continuing expansion of university’s teaching, research, community service accomplishments during Annual Address to University Community
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – In his ninth – and final – Annual Address to the University Community, President Richard L. McCormick challenged Rutgers to build upon its many strengths and implement strategies to become “that great state university which Governor [Thomas] Kean summoned us to be” in the Report of the Governor’s Task Force on Higher Education issued earlier this year.
McCormick told an audience of an estimated 500 students, faculty, staff and guests at the Rutgers Student Center that the university has much to be proud of already. “Enrollment has reached 58,000, an all-time high,” he said. “Record numbers of students are arriving here as Presidential Scholars, our highest academic scholarship, and leaving here on Fulbrights and other prestigious fellowships. We celebrate, too, the excellence of our faculty and programs … in the external research support that has approached or surpassed $400 million annually for the past several years.
“I doubt if any university anywhere does better than Rutgers in producing academic scholarship that is both highly regarded and practically useful, while also providing educational opportunity to a student body that is economically and ethnically so diverse,” McCormick added.
Rutgers’ 19th president is stepping down at the end of the 2011-2012 academic year after a decade in office. Following a year’s sabbatical, the former history professor will return to the faculty as a University Professor.
McCormick observed that among the most important recommendations of Gov. Chris Christie’s Task Force report, whose chief author was Kean, was for the state “to reverse decades of underfunding and neglect of higher education.” It also challenged institutions to be accountable for fulfilling their distinctive missions. “For a state to be great, it must have a great state university,” Kean wrote.
Taking note, McCormick identified seven ways in which Rutgers could advance its greatness: reuniting the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School with Rutgers; improving students’ academic achievement and graduation rates; increasing funding for research; extending the university’s international reach in strategically selected countries; adding many more endowed chairs for faculty; expanding and improving the Rutgers campus facilities; and increasing private giving.
“Foremost among all the ways of propelling Rutgers toward greatness is the proposed integration of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School,” McCormick said. “To gain an outstanding medical school would raise the academic profile and expand the reach of Rutgers more swiftly and permanently than any other change we could make. Most important, it would help the state. As the Kean report stated, ‘This merger is essential to the future educational, economic and health care needs of New Jersey.’”
The president detailed ongoing collaborations between the institutions and noted their combined research strengths will mean “many million more” dollars in federal research support every year. “Think what it will mean for New Jersey citizens to know that the finest biomedical education and research, and the treatments that follow, are happening right here,” he said. “It’s not simply a matter of state pride. It’s about saving lives, improving health, and enhancing the quality of life for our families.”
McCormick added that Rutgers has begun to prepare for the integration of new people and programs from both the medical school and the UMDNJ School of Public Health.
Stating that the university’s New Brunswick campus is at full capacity, McCormick announced that Rutgers will reduce the size of the entering first-year class on that campus by 4 percent in fall 2012 and will close the admission process for New Brunswick earlier than past years. “We want to be sure there are enough classrooms, buses and student services to provide a first-rate experience,” McCormick said. Because of improved student retention rates, the university does not anticipate that total enrollment will decrease.
The president acknowledged that traveling the path toward greatness requires money and that the vast majority of students attend with some form of financial assistance. Rutgers has increased its available student aid by $2.5 million this year and will provide an additional $1 million next year.
Prudent investments have enabled the university to complete essential capital projects on all campuses: the law school in Camden, Newark’s business school, science buildings on Busch, cost-reducing solar installations on Livingston and health sciences facilities in New Brunswick. More are planned; ground is to be broken soon for the new business school on the Livingston Campus, envisioned as a hub of professional and business education.
“As the Kean task forced observed, every public college and university in New Jersey is in desperate need of state support for its facilities,” McCormick said. “In the past, the state’s residents have voted overwhelmingly to fund building projects on university campuses through bond issues. But there has not been a higher education facilities bond issue in New Jersey since 1988.”
Since then, the state’s college student population has grown by 140,000 men and women – 46 percent – and the need for high-tech academic buildings has grown exponentially. “Just as significant, every campus is trying to patch leaky ceilings, crumbling buildings and cracked sidewalks. We need help,” McCormick said.
As a result of the crying need for capital improvements, McCormick and his colleagues on the New Jersey Presidents’ Council have been meeting with legislative leaders in Trenton with the hope of seeing a higher education facilities bond issue reach the November 2012 ballot. Rutgers’ president remains optimistic, despite the difficult economic climate, as he does about the institution’s fundraising prospects. Earlier this week, Rutgers received the largest gift in its 245-year history, $27 million from an anonymous benefactor, bringing the donor’s contribution to a total of $40 million.
Rutgers set an annual record last year by raising $137 million, and its capital campaign, “Our Rutgers, Our Future,” has now raised $575 million, more than halfway to its $1 billion goal in private gifts.
Media Contact: Steve Manas
732-932-7084, ext. 612