By David Madden

CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) — New Jersey’s higher education reform plan was signed into law today by Governor Chris Christie.

Some call it controversial, but both political leaders and many educators are calling it necessary.

Despite years of effort by Christie and others, Rutgers and Rowan won’t merge (see related story) — but they will collaborate on future projects.

Rutgers-Camden gets a greater share of funding from the main campus.

Both schools now have research status and, statewide, there’s $700 million worth of capital investment — subject to voter approval in the fall.

The governor concedes the process was difficult, even painful.

“I never expected that my plan was going to be adopted,” Christie said today.  “No plan a governor puts forward is adopted and swallowed whole by the legislature, especially in a divided government. So my plan was a conversation starter — and boy, did we ever.”

And, officials say, the conversation isn’t over. Institutional leaders have till next June to put the new law into practice.

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