Rutgers Provides Excellent Return on State Investment

Richard L. McCormick, President
As submitted; published in the Home News Tribune and Courier News on July 19, 2009

In this troubled economy, as local and state governments struggle to balance budgets, every dollar counts, and each investment must be measured by what it can do to address urgent needs and stimulate economic growth. From that perspective, one of the most effective investments the state has made has been in Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Rutgers is especially well-situated to find solutions that create jobs and bolster prosperity.

First, a few key statistics, most of them taken from a new university report on Rutgers' economic impact on the state of New Jersey:

  • For every dollar the state invests in Rutgers, more than six dollars are channeled back into the New Jersey economy in direct and indirect spending by Rutgers and its students, faculty, and staff. Last year this amounted to a $3.8 billion return on $595 million from the state.
  • Each year, Rutgers sends 11,000 well-educated graduates into the world, armed with a Rutgers degree that a recent Wall Street Journal's SmartMoney magazine study ranked as the sixth best value in the nation.
  • One of New Jersey's largest employers, Rutgers supports 35,000 jobs, including nearly 10,000 full-time faculty and staff, 13,700 student and temporary employees, and nearly 8,000 jobs created by university purchases and capital improvements.
  • Our employees paid nearly $83 million in state income tax, sales tax, and property taxes last year.
  • Last year the New Jersey Small Business Development Centers that are headquartered at Rutgers–Newark helped 879 clients start businesses and obtain $40 million in loans and equity investment, leading to the creation or retention of 12,000 jobs.
  • Rutgers people have donated 20 tons of food and nearly $49,000 to New Jersey food banks in the first six months of the Rutgers Against Hunger initiative.
  • A new solar energy "farm" on the Livingston Campus in Piscataway—installed by a South Plainfield-based company—will generate 10 percent of the campus's electrical demand, saving money and reducing carbon emissions by 1,200 tons per year.

These numbers, however, tell just part of the story. Less quantifiable but profoundly important, Rutgers faculty are conducting leading-edge research on some of the greatest global human challenges, including climate change, alternative energy, transportation, autism, cancer, AIDS, and regenerative medicine. We can measure activity in these areas by the federal grants they have won, and we are competing aggressively for many of the new funds made available in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, but that's not what motivates our faculty to do this work. They dedicate themselves to this research for the solutions it creates and the hope it brings.

To cite one example of this work, a Rutgers team led by Professor Robin Davis is studying two neurotrophin proteins in the ear's cochlea. They have discovered that these proteins play a key role in the way sound messages are relayed to the brain. Their work may lead to significant improvements in cochlear implants that bring hearing to those with congenital and profound deafness.

In addition to the high quality education that our more than 52,000 undergraduate and graduate students gain each year, Rutgers touches the lives of many more New Jerseyans through a wide array of outreach programs. Business people turn to Rutgers for continuing education and certificate programs that help them advance in their careers. Local governments rely on Rutgers for training courses and technical assistance. Families in each county call on Rutgers Cooperative Extension for help—learning, for example, which plants are most resistant to deer foraging. Among our student body's numerous public service efforts, Rutgers undergraduates mentor urban teens and Rutgers law students provide pro bono services to indigent residents.

Providing these functions—and many more, such as training social workers, helping restore the oyster fishery in the Delaware Bay, and serving as the world's largest university-based DNA repository—requires investments by taxpayers and their representatives in Trenton and Washington, by students and their families, by corporate and foundation grantmakers, and by donors. To each of these constituencies, we recognize a special obligation to spend wisely and well.

Alone among our outstanding fellow institutions of higher learning, Rutgers is the state university and, as such, must continue to meet New Jersey's needs and seek solutions to its ongoing challenges. From our historic dedication to teaching undergraduates to our latest initiative in fighting hunger, Rutgers is serving New Jersey with passion, vision, and creativity. As we do, it is gratifying to know that we are having a six-to-one impact on the economy for every dollar invested by the state—a welcome rate of return in these difficult times.