The New Jersey gubernatorial election may seem like just another political race, however, many feel that this election is imperative to the very future of not only New Jersey, but the many higher-education institutions within it.
“This is really going to be kind of a defining moment as to which direction the state moves, and I think the candidates have made it pretty clear what they envision the state to be,” Joseph Marbach, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said.
“Governor Corzine has promoted a very liberal and progressive agenda that has increased the size and scope of state government, and has also increased the tax burden on individuals. His principle opponent, Chris Christie, is calling for a smaller-sized government and a corresponding reduction in taxes…and then there’s Chris Daggett who has kind of come in between the two of them,” Marbach said.
Essentially, according to Marbach, the election all comes down to the money.
“In a sense, this is an election where people are trying to decide, how much government do they want? And how much government are they willing to pay for?”
All three candidates have major differences in the platforms on which they are running, including social issues, environmental issues, and economic issues, but all have expressed the want to improve higher education.
Matt Lambert, deputy press secretary for Chris Daggett’s gubernatorial campaign said that, if elected, Daggett will invest heavily in higher education, especially in the areas of research and development.
“We are the only state that has recently disinvested in higher education, and that has hurt New Jersey,” Lambert said.
According to the “Chris Christie for Governor” Web site, Christie is also very interested in “fixing” the higher-education system in New Jersey.
Attempts were made to contact Christie’s press secretary, but he was not immediately available.
In the portion of the site entitled “88 Ways Chris Christie Will Fix New Jersey,” 17 “fixes” revolve around New Jersey’s education system, and nine deal directly with higher education.
On his site, Christie said that if elected, he will reinstate the Higher Education Incentive Endowment program, “to spur private investment in higher education and help with tuition stabilization, scholarships, recruiting faculty and building new classroom and research facilities.”
In addition, Christie, if elected, intends to offer challenge grants to colleges and universities with existing teaching certification programs (Seton Hall does offer teaching certification).
Christie also intends to create a new “Outstanding Scholars,” program, which would, “provide public and independent institutions of higher education with campus-based funding to recruit high achieving New Jersey students,” according to Christie’s Web site.
Corzine, who has been criticized by his opponents for the way he handled education in his first term, (Christie criticized Corzine on his Web site for his handling of charter school applications, while Lambert said that Daggett felt Corzine did not invest enough in higher education,) has focused his efforts college affordable, according to Aaron Carter, a press and communications assistant for the Corzine for Governor campaign.
While Marbach said that Corzine, in his previous term, invested more energy and money into primary education, Carter said, in an e-mail interview, that total spending on higher education increased by two percent to $2.2 billion dollars.
Carter said that while Corzine has not been able to do everything he would have liked for higher education institutions due to the economic recession, he has, “fought to maintain funding for higher education even during these difficult economic times, because he understands that our State’s future depends on students’ ability to receive a world class education.”
On campus, many students, including the College Republicans and the College Democrats, have been paying close attention to the gubernatorial race.
“This election is a turning point in New Jersey history,” junior Gary La Spisa, Chairman of the College Republicans, said. “State elections, so much more so than federal elections, have a direct impact on the lives of state residents,” senior Shaina Tullo, president of the College Democrats, said.
While they both agree that it is important for Seton Hall students to vote in the election because it will impact all of the students’ futures, they disagree about who to vote for and why.
La Spisa said that the College Republicans have supported Christie throughout the campaign, while the College Democrats have officially endorsed incumbent Governor Corzine, according to Tullo.
“As Seton Hall students, we are all aware of the rising cost of college tuition. In fact, a vast majority of Seton Hall students receive financial aid. Jon Corzine has continued to advocate for students struggling with this debt,” Tullo said, adding that during his time as governor Corzine has increased funding for Tuition Aid Grant.
“In fact, he has devoted over $800 million to the TAG,” Tullo said.
La Spisa, on the other hand, feels that Christie will be more helpful to college students.
“Christie’s plan to address the over-taxing of the people of New Jersey is going to have a positive effect on every Seton Hall student, particularly those who remain in NJ after graduation because we will all graduate before the end of his term,” La Spisa said.
“Our state is already the most taxed in the nation and Corzine and Daggett promise to raise taxes. The fact is, when we graduate we will probably not be able to afford to stay here. As a native New Jerseyan I want to stay in this place that I call home, but I don’t think I will be able to afford it,” he said.
Attempts were made to contact both the Seton Hall Students for Individual Liberty and the Young Socialists for Democratic Change, but were unsuccessful.
Caitlin Carroll can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.