TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Rutgers' main governing body was expected to endorse a revised plan to overhaul New Jersey's higher education system.
The vote was possible on Thursday, hours before the state Legislature was set to consider the changes.
The evolving plan does not dilute board authority over the Camden or Newark campus. An earlier version merged the Camden campus with Rowan University, which drew fierce opposition from faculty and students, and elicited a vow from Rutgers' two governing bodies not to sign off.
A majority of the 11-member Board of Governors are now expected to support it, a person familiar with the proposal told The Associated Press. Rutgers trustees, who are mainly advisory, are still divided and will not vote Thursday, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
A legal memo from legislative researchers concluded that the law establishing the state university is a contract between the boards and the state; changing the terms requires approval from the parties. That contradicted an earlier legal opinion that sign off from the trustees, who have vocally opposed the deal, was not required.
The trustees have retained a lawyer and are threatening to sue.
The plan creates a health sciences university in South Jersey and dismantles the University of Medicine and Dentistry, giving it to Rutgers and Rowan.
The deal calls for the state to continue to fund University Hospital, UMDNJ's money-losing teaching hospital and the state's largest provider of care for the uninsured poor, satisfying a major concern of lawmakers from Essex County.
The costs of the plan are unknown.
Lawmakers are set to cast final votes on the legislation Thursday, though it's also possible that they consider only the latest changes to the bill and delay a vote on the entire plan.
The 100-page legislation has changed often as it sped through the Legislature in about a week, skipping a hearing before the Assembly Higher Education panel though it is a major higher ed bill.
Gov. Chris Christie, a proponent of the restructuring, imposed a self-made June 30 deadline for putting the framework in place. The actual plan would not be implemented until next year.
Democratic power broker George Norcross III is also a supporter. Norcross is chairman of the board of Cooper University Hospital, which has partnered with Rowan on a new medical school. The bill gives UMDNJ's osteopathic school to Rowan, and designates the school a research university, which makes it eligible for more state and federal funding and giving it greater independence in awarding contracts.