Seeing the state of New Jersey go out and borrow more money right now - $750 million, to be exact - does not, at first glance, seem like a particularly good idea to many of you.
But the Building Our Future Bond Act - Public Question No. 1 on the Nov. 6 ballot - is important, it's the right thing to do, and voters should support it.
New Jersey has not had a bond issue for higher education facilities in 24 years. According to bond supporters (which include Democrats and Republicans, labor and business, the governor and, of course, the colleges and universities themselves), New Jersey is one of only five states that has spent no money on capital improvements at its colleges and universities in the last five years. New York and Connecticut are investing hundreds of millions of dollars a year in higher-education facilities, bond supporters say.
And this particular $750 million bond act is carefully targeted.
The money can be used only for academic buildings such as classrooms and laboratories. The money cannot be spent on dormitories, athletic facilities or administration buildings.
And the institutions will have to match 25 percent of whatever they receive.
All public and private higher-education institutions in the state are eligible, except private universities with endowments over $1 billion - a stipulation designed specifically to exclude Princeton.
If voters approve the bond referendum, the state's research institutions would split $300 million, other public four-year schools would get $247.5 million, community colleges would get $150 million, and private colleges would share $52.5 million.
At Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, the bond issue would help pay for a health-science, business or education building.
Atlantic Cape Community College would get $6.75 million to address space and capacity issues.
Ocean County College would get $8.55 million.
Cumberland County College would receive $4.65 million.
So why is this new borrowing so important?
The answer should be obvious.
New Jersey has nothing to gain and much to lose by failing to invest in its colleges and universities. Other states do it, and unless New Jersey wants to become a state with subpar colleges and universities, it, too, must invest.
And the state has much to gain by providing first-rate institutions of higher learning that will help keep New Jersey's best students in the state, attract top students from outside the state and ensure that all students get the kind of first-rate education that will produce the skilled workers and creative entrepreneurs needed to power the economy.
Still not convinced?
Look at it this way: Even Gov. Chris Christie, no big spender he, supports the referendum.
Vote yes on Public Question No. 1.