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In annual address, Whitman pledges grants for education, praises Shapiro

Gov. Christie Whitman unveiled new plans for higher education during her State of the State address yesterday, pledging $25 million in grants for public university math and science programs as well as funding for technology research.

In her speech, Whitman also recognized President Shapiro for his contributions as co-chair of The Edison Partnership, an organization she founded two years ago.

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"The Edison Partnership is a group of people from labor, academia and government," Shapiro said. "The group has three goals: to improve the economy of the state, improve economic opportunity" and "to increase the overall vitality in the high-tech industry."

The partnership comprises a diverse group of economic leaders around the state, including Lucent Technologies president Thomas Uhlman and New Jersey Economic Development Authority director Caren Fransini, who serve as co-chairs with Shapiro.

Whitman said the partnership was highly influential in designing the $165-million economic package she has proposed called New Jersey Jobs for a New Economy. "The Edison partners believe – and I agree – that we must do more to keep on top in high tech," Whitman said. "This bold, new package sends our state straight to the head of the pack in high technology."

Federal funding

The economic package includes $10 million that will establish a fund to match universities' expenditures for technology research and stimulate federal research grants.

"New Jersey universities rank 44th in securing federal research and development dollars," Whitman said, adding that she hopes these research and development grants will ensure that New Jersey universities "lead the charge" in technology development.

Shapiro said Princeton is often able to attract more federal funding than other universities in the state. "We are successful, but we're very small. The main beneficiary of all this will be the public universities," he said. "They're just a lot bigger and in more need of funding as they've only gotten into [technology research] in the last twenty years."

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Whitman's address was divided into "the four E's": the economy, education, the elderly and the environment. The $165 million package will create and maintain new jobs, encourage high-tech industry, improve education and protect the environment, according to Whitman.

Most of the proposed expenditures involve expanding high technology jobs and improving education. Aside from university funding, Whitman, who is also an ex officio University trustee, proposed strengthening preschool programs, supporting grammar schools and providing better training for teachers.

Shapiro said the partnership spent a considerable amount of time reviewing New Jersey's economic condition and presented the governor with recommendations, many of which she included in the new economic package.

"Of course she didn't implement all of them. This is just another step in the process," he said.

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