AP News

New Rutgers president: Reduce subsidy for sports

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — The new president of Rutgers University said Tuesday that he wants to reduce the school's subsidy for sports programs and raise more money for New Jersey's flagship state university.

Robert Barchi, a former president of Thomas Jefferson University and a longtime administrator at the University of Pennsylvania, formally took over at New Jersey's state university on Saturday.

The institution is in a time of transition even without getting a new president.

Last month, Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill to give the school most parts of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, including two medical schools, in a move designed largely to improve the biomedical research at the state university that sits amid titans of the U.S. pharmaceutical industry. The handover of the schools is to happen next year.

One of Barchi's first jobs is to figure out administratively how to make an already huge institution — Rutgers has about 60,000 students on its campuses in New Brunswick, Piscataway, Newark and Camden — into one with even more moving parts.

And, he told reporters Tuesday, on the first day of classes at the university, he has a list of other goals for the school.

Barchi, who has a $650,000 salary, said Rutgers should find ways to educate more New Jersey residents, bring more out-of-state students to campus, market itself better, increase donations and reduce the university subsidy for its sports programs.

Barchi, 65, said he believes New Jersey should increase overall higher education funding. But he also said Rutgers needs to improve its fundraising prowess, a process he said that can take years.

He said money particularly needs to be raised for scholarship funds and endowed faculty chairs — ways to attract top students and faculty.

A key goal, he said, is to try to hold the line on how much students, on average, pay to attend the university. About 4 in 5 now receive financial aid, meaning most pay less than the $24,500 a New Jersey resident student living on campus would pay for tuition, room board and fees. As that rate rises, he said, he wants to increase scholarships so that the typical student would not have to pay more.

"It's absolutely crucial that access to a Rutgers education is not limited by the socioeconomic status or cash availability of our students," he said.

Barchi, a neurologist, also said he wants more efficiency with how the university spends money, and he didn't rule out layoffs as it takes on parts of UMDNJ.

He said that also means reducing the university's subsidy for its athletic program.

Rutgers provides about $18 million out of a $60 million annual budget for its athletic program, which has risen to prominence in the last several years as a once-moribund football team became a regular in bowl games. Barchi said the exposure a sports program can bring is essential to improving the school's name recognition and even its reputation.

But, he said, he doesn't want taxpayers and tuition-payers to foot the bill. He said he wants the university to keep paying for scholarships for its students — worth about $10 million a year. But over time, he'd like to eliminate other financial subsidies for sports. The subsidy was reduced about $1 million in the budget for the 2012-13 academic year.

Barchi said he and his wife, Francis Harper Barchi, who is joining the Rutgers faculty next year, have finished unpacking their possessions in the Rutgers' century-old president's home.

His next steps including getting a grasp on campus life — such as eating at the famous "grease trucks" — and getting to know student, faculty and administrative leaders as well as legislators.

He also put his four-decade-long hobby of fixing and building clocks to good use by repairing a 19th-century clock in his new office.

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