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New Jersey Higher Education: A Case Study in Avoiding the Legacy Box

Tom Sullivan

October 18, 2016
Tom Sullivan

The Legacy Box is a place where institutions die a slow, painful, unexamined and even unaware death. Death seems to come suddenly and catch the victims by surprise. It is the box of pseudo-reality where board members, leadership and managers all think that everything will be okay if the institution can just evolve at a comfortable pace and mostly maintain its current way of operating. In a highly competitive higher education market, where the likes of Notre Dame, Michigan State and USC have joined the throng of over 3,000 online degree programs, a protective posture is a recipe for demise.

 

It’s a good thing that New Jersey’s colleges and universities are immersed in a highly diversified, innovation-driven economy with a talent density and global posture that propels industry forward. Combine that with a highly diversified population and a secondary education system that creates expectations and pathways for high school graduates to pursue higher education, and you have the basis for momentum, growth and vitality. Equally important is the capability of college and university presidents to embrace change and find new solutions to remain at the competitive forefront.

 

In 2003 and 2004, I had the opportunity to be the private sector representative working with a group of New Jersey’s college presidents to help develop New Jersey’s Long Range Plan for Higher Education. Published in 2005, the state’s college presidents called upon higher educational institutions to collaborate with each other, and with private and public institutions in order to find new ways to harness resources, technology and partnerships so that New Jersey could continue to succeed in a connected global economy. It’s exciting to see those strategies taking shape at an accelerating pace in New Jersey. Here are three examples:

 

  • Rutgers University and RWJ Barnabas Health are working on an extensive, new strategic partnership that could have multiple benefits. Some of these benefits include attracting NIH research grants, enabling medical school internships and applying the latest research bench-to-bedside therapies to save lives.

 

  • Seton Hall University and Hackensack Meridian Health have a partnership agreement to create a new, four-year medical school at the former corporate site of Hoffman La Roche. The partnership will create thousands of jobs and overcome a projected physician shortage in New Jersey. Additionally, by integrating the School of Nursing and Allied Health Professions, the partnership will foster innovative healthcare delivery models to improve health outcomes and reduce costs.

 

  • Rowan University and Cooper University Heath Care launched the Cooper Medical School of Rowan University and celebrated its first graduating class in 2016. The school has innovative teaching methodologies that include research and service to communities like Camden to help address the crisis of chronic diseases.

 

It’s not just the large universities in New Jersey who are developing innovative partnerships and collaborations. For example, New Jersey City University partners with Brookdale Community College, a suburban setting to the south, to offer undergraduate programs as well as graduate programs in business and nursing. Higher education is creatively using resources to achieve its academic mission, advance societal goals, and create relationships that will provide a more stable financial model into the future.

 

This is no time to rest satisfied on today’s exciting new partnerships because competition is doing the same around the nation and around the world. The conclusion of the 2005 Long Range Plan is just as valid today:

 

“New Jersey stands at a crossroads. A handful of states will separate themselves from the others by harnessing the intellectual power of their colleges and universities to propel their economies forward and to increase the quality of life for all residents. This plan seeks to firmly establish New Jersey among those special states.”