Updated Digs May Give NJ Students Reasons to Stay

Plans Underway for College Campus Construction Projects
By Chris Colabella

New Jersey residents may not always agree with how elected leaders spend their money but, like it or not, more tax dollars are spent to educate public schools students here than in almost any other state in the country. In fact, according to the National Education Association, per-student spending on New Jersey K-12 public education was the second-highest in 2010-2011.

New Jersey voters gave a collective “thumbs up” to a $750 million construction referendum last November.

The money looks like it’s being well spent; New Jersey’s high school graduation rate has consistently ranked among the highest in the United  States. However, it’s also true that the vast majority of our high school seniors leave the Garden State for college. In fact, sadly, New Jersey ranks first in the nation in annual net loss of graduating high school seniors to colleges and universities in other states.

Colleges have a plan that is sure to hit a home run with construction companies. Essentially, the plan is simple: If we build it, maybe they will stay.

At least that’s the hope, anyway, of colleges and universities throughout the state who are looking to plug the “Brain Drain” – the trend of New Jersey’s best and brightest students leaving for higher education and not returning.  (Each year, the state loses 28,000 more highly educated high school seniors to other states than it attracts, according to the organization Postsecondary Education Opportunity. This number comprises more than one-third of all annual college-bound high school graduates from New Jersey.)

While some projects are paid for through fundraising efforts, there are likely many more that will be coming off the drawing tables and out to bid. That’s because New Jersey voters gave a collective “thumbs up” to a $750 million construction referendum last November. The “Building for the Future” higher education funding is the first general obligation bond to support new academic facilities in the state since 1988.

In August of 2012, legislation originally sponsored by Assemblyman Albert Coutinho (D-Essex), was signed by Gov. Christie. Among other things, the law provides for an increase in construction investments in New Jersey’s state and county colleges.

Assemblyman Coutinho said: “We hear so many stories … about the number of high school students that flee New Jersey for out-of-state colleges. Expanding classroom and dormitory capacities will help us fight this so-called ‘brain drain’ and keep our best and brightest here in New Jersey.”

Moving forward, there are myriad construction projects in the planning stages that call for the creation and expansion of student housing, new student centers, classroom buildings and even a full-out development of a Town Center where students and residents of the local community can mingle. If these projects, many of which are focused on green building practices, including LEED certified buildings, don’t compel students to stay, what will?

Some of the projects on the books are:

  • New Student Center at St Peters College in Jersey City.  The $35 to $45 million project led by contractor Torcon, Inc. of Red Bank, is expected to be completed in early 2103. The new six-story, 90,000 square foot student center will be a certified LEED-Silver “green” building, featuring energy and water efficient controls and fixtures, a green roof and storm water runoff. The building is being  constructed with recycled content and renewable and regional materials, and will promote recycling and HVAC management while reducing waste.
  • Multi-Use Development Project at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. DEVCO of New Brunswick is looking forward to the Spring 2013 completion of project;  DEVCO will own and manage the property. The $295 million project include a 150,000 square foot academic building to house several departments in the School of Arts and Sciences, a residential honors college, and an 800-bed student residential facility, with street-level retail shopping and dining.  Additionally, the project also calls for a new 30,000 square foot facility for the historic New Brunswick Theological Seminary, which owns most of the redevelopment site.
  • Campus Town at the College of New Jersey in Ewing is a $50 million project led by the PRC Group of West Long Branch. The project, expected to be completed by mid 2014, calls for the construction of a town/school center  including retail and apartment-style student housing as well as much      needed parking lots. Fifteen buildings owned by the college are slated for      demolition to make room for a student fitness center, a Barnes & Noble, restaurants, banks, pubs and a large public meeting square.

So, the message to construction companies in this region is clear. It’s time to go back to school.

Chris Colabella is the president of CIS, Inc., New Jersey’s only local construction lead service. For more information, visit www.cisleads.com or call 800- to arrange for a free demo of CIS Leads.

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