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NJ Gov Says Rutgers Merger Will 'Keep Families Together'

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Governor Chris Christie said on Tuesday that New Jersey was the No. 1 exporter of college students in the country — and that his controversial Rutgers reorganization plan will help keep families together.

Speaking at a town hall in Cedar Grove, N.J., Christie said that last year alone the state lost 38,000 students to out-of-state colleges.

"We are going to keep families together,” Christie said. “You know what happens when your kid goes to college out of state? They get that first internship out of state. Maybe they get that first job out of state. Maybe they fall in love with somebody out of state, and then you never see them again."

Christie also made news by for the first time publicly supporting a $750 million-bond issue for improving the state's higher education facilities. The last time voters considered that kind of measure was in 1988.

Christie emphasized both the physical upgrade and re-organization would help New Jersey  be a "magnet" for hundreds of millions of dollars in private sector investments made by businesses looking to benefit from being in close proximity to top-flight research institutions.

The reorganization will likely be voted on by the full Senate this week, but considerations of the undetermined fiscal implications will be put off until next year.

Lawmakers from both parties have long complained that New Jersey loses thousands of students every year to out of state colleges because of a lack of quality alternatives in state. But critics of the proposal say it has been driven by back-room political wheeling and dealing.

Christie said the proposal to have Rutgers absorb University of Medicine and Dentistry’s Newark-based medical school would make Rutgers "a bigger more vibrant university.”

“It is one of the only state universities in America that doesn't have its own medical school and its a big deal," Christie said.

On Monday, Democratic Senate President Stephen Sweeney advanced through committee a re-organization plan with more autonomy for the Rutgers-Newark operation. The plan also included state support for UMDNJ's hospital to continue providing health care for Newark's poor and uninsured.

There are also safeguards for the union work force.

Rutgers did not return a call for comment.

The Rutgers Board of Governors and Board of Trustees are autonomous and could have legal recourse to challenge whatever Trenton final agrees on.