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By David Madden

TRENTON, NJ (CBS) – A New Jersey Senate committee has approved a bill that overhauls higher education in the state, including a plan that sets up a joint board to oversee operations at Rowan University and Rutgers-Camden. The bill now goes to another Senate committee for more debate.

One of the Senate sponsors of the bill, Camden County Democrat Donald Norcross, admits this is still very much a work in progress. That’s why no one can say how much the realignment, which includes higher education changes statewide, will actually cost.

“If we did not listen to stakeholders, if we did not make changes, if we were not part of that process, the plan could have been done long ago.”

But it’s more than just money. Opponents suggest school accreditations could be put at risk, along with research grants.

Rutgers suggests the current plan, which includes a joint board to call the shots at Rutgers-Camden and Rowan University, runs afoul of state law.

“I’m not quite certain how you structure a university in which one board has the academic integrity while another board is controlling the budget,” says Rutgers Board of Governors Vice Chair Gerald Harvey.

The plan might even run afoul of the state law that created Rutgers in the first place. The higher ed committee passed the plan unanimously, even as members conceded it’ll go through some major changes before the Budget Committee takes it up on Monday.

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