Kean University in Union Township has been designated the state's first urban research university, making it eligible for additional federal and state research funding.
The new status "positions the university as a statewide leader in research and policy for our underserved cities and urban communities," Kean President Lamont O. Repollet said in a statement Friday.
"It will change the course of this institution and provide new opportunities for the students we serve," Repollet said. "As the state’s only urban research university, we can also make a real difference in the lives of New Jerseyans living in urban communities as we help urban centers build stronger futures.”
The designation, codified in a bill signed by Gov. Phil Murphy, increases state Tuition Assistance Grant awards for Kean students and provides additional distinction for any faculty or student applications for federal or state research grants, a university spokesperson said.
The university opened an Urban Policy and Research Institute in the spring, which researches issues affecting the state’s urban centers and develops solutions to address them.
The university said that highly competitive federal research grants have more than tripled at Kean since 2017. The new status will make it eligible for even more research funding.
The 166-year old institution serving the cities of Newark and Elizabeth has campuses in New Jersey and in Wenzhou, China. More than 61% of its students are people of color, and the federal government recognizes Kean as a Hispanic-serving institution. Half its students receive Pell grants — an indicator of financial need — and are the first in their families to attend a higher education institution, according to the government.
Public research universities receive federal and state funding to generate research and scholarship that drives innovation for the public good. Public universities received a little more than half of their research funding from federal sources, (51% in 2016) and a lesser amount from state sources (8% in 2016) according to the National Science Foundation.
“With this designation, Kean’s world-class programs and research can stretch even farther beyond the borders of our campus, into cities and urban communities in need of the insight and targeted attention that we can provide,” said Kellie LeDet, chief government affairs officer at Kean.
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The legislation also authorized the creation of the New Jersey Civic Information Consortium — an association among Kean, Rutgers University, Montclair State University, the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rowan University. The initiative will be funded by the state to "advance research and innovation in the field of media and technology" to meet New Jersey's evolving information needs. The legislation did not specify how much the state will spend on the initiative.
The state legislature votes to determine which universities become research institutions. Kean joins Rutgers, NJIT, Rowan and Montclair State as a state-designated public research university.
New education bills
Murphy also signed a bill Monday that establishes a commission to examine how universities and their host municipalitiescan work together to increase engagement with the local community.
Another law creates a new category of state school aid called "military impact aid" to benefit children whose parents are on active duty in the uniformed services and who live in school districts that include federally owned land not taxed by the state. The state will spend between $6 million and $8 million in financial assistance to benefit these children.
Online courses offered by colleges will now be subject to oversight from a task force appointed by the governor's office. Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, the law will create a task force to evaluate quality, costs and educational outcomes of online courses offered by universities in New Jersey.
On Monday, the Senate Education Committee also approved certain bills that will now be voted on the floor.
Two bills would require changes in K-12 curricula. S3464 will require age-appropriate instruction on information literacy to help students understand how to do research and use critical thinking to evaluate information available on the internet and in other media. S4021 will require school social studies curricula to include history and contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Murphy said in a statement this week that this is the state's "fastest growing" demographic.
Other bills would require that a high school student representative be added to boards of education, require all websites associated with school districts to be accessible to persons with disabilities, and allow teachers to certify using alternative methods in place of basic skills testing.
Mary Ann Koruth covers education for NorthJersey.com. To get unlimited access to the latest news about New Jersey's schools and how it affects your children, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Kean University named NJ's first public urban research