Peter J. McDonough is the senior vice president for external affairs at Rutgers.


Peter J. McDonough is the senior vice president for external affairs at Rutgers.

Benoit Cortet

As the gubernatorial campaign enters the  homestretch, the various candidates—among them, Democrat Phil Murphy and Republican Kim Guadagno—continue to address the issues that are important to New Jersey’s voters. It’s the usual list: property taxes, jobs, and the very high cost of living in New Jersey. Higher education, however, has not gotten the attention it deserves.

Higher education wasn’t a hot topic in the 2009 gubernatorial election campaign, either. But, improvements in higher education may well be one of Governor Christie’s most significant policy accomplishments and most lasting legacy—much more important and far more enduring than memes from the beach or boardwalk.

The integration of most of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey into Rutgers in 2013 was a milestone for Rutgers and the state. Bringing the medical school back to Rutgers was one of two top priorities presented to me when I first joined the Rutgers administration nearly seven years ago. Rutgers had spent more than a decade trying to reclaim its medical school. I was happy to be a part of the effort, but it would not have happened without the leadership of Governor Christie. Other governors had tried and famously failed. He got it done. As a result of the legislation, Rutgers received not one, but two medical schools.

The other top priority on my list was passage of a higher  education capital construction bond act, the first such bond act in a quarter-century. New Jersey’s colleges and universities were starving for a major construction bond act. Piecemeal bond issues and the creation of a variety of small funds over the years provided small relief, but big and bold action was needed. The 2012 bond act, coupled with other resources, has contributed to the more than $1.8 billion in new construction throughout Rutgers in the last five years.

Rutgers played a leadership role in making that bond act a reality, but it would not have happened, could not have happened, without the commitment, vision, and joint leadership of Governor Christie and Senate president Stephen M. Sweeney.

Governors can make a difference. The election is around the corner. Choose wisely.