New Jersey’s private nonprofit colleges are a step closer to having the same land-use and development advantages as the state’s public colleges, as the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee passed today a bipartisan bill sponsored by Senators Robert Singer and Paul Sarlo.
S-1534 places private nonprofit colleges under the “Municipal Land Use Law” and a state Supreme Court decision that exempts public colleges and universities from local zoning jurisdiction in recognition of their critical public missions in educating New Jersey residents.
“New Jersey’s independent institutions are in a disadvantageous position for growth and accommodation by being subjected to local zoning controls by their home municipalities,” said Singer, R-Monmouth, Ocean. “Despite their recognized vital public missions, private colleges are often forced into costly and lengthy approval and appeals processes that delay or prohibit important educational programs and facilities. That also can cause the diversion of critical funding from educational purposes.”
“We need to begin treating all our colleges and universities with the same standards, so they all have equal opportunities to grow and provide for their students,” added Sarlo, D-Bergen, Passaic. “The current system has allowed excellent private institutions to be treated as second-rate citizens. Hopefully, this can lead to colleges and universities and local leaders having more cordial, cooperative discussions instead of creating highly politicized town-gown flare-ups that benefit no one.”
Local approval exemptions for public colleges are not unlimited and must be exercised in a reasonable fashion as to not arbitrarily override legitimate local interests. Public colleges and universities are required to consult with local authorities regarding institutional development and to allow for input in order to minimize potential conflicts with local governmental interests.
Independent institutions of higher education are eligible to receive very modest financial support under the “Independent College and University Assistance Act,” but serve more than 67,000 students each year, most of whom are New Jersey residents.
Of the total undergraduate student population at these independent institutions, 77 percent are in-state residents. These independent colleges and universities also serve 29 percent of all college students in New Jersey, 35 percent of the State’s graduate student population and confer over 15,000 degrees each year.