Even as Rutgers-Camden unveiled a Writers House this month, the school's administrators were eyeing the next piece: a $5 million expansion of the new space.
The day before the dedication of the $4.25 million renovation of the building at 305 Cooper St., the state announced a new round of funding for construction, renovation, and infrastructure on college campuses.
At $180 million total, this round of bond funding is considerably smaller than the $1.3 billion distributed in 2013, which helped pay for 176 projects at 46 schools.
This time, there's less money for hallmark buildings like the ones that Rowan University is putting up for its business ($40.4 million) and engineering ($46 million) schools.
Even so, Rowan College at Burlington County plans to ask for $57 million, the entire projected cost of a planned expansion and renovation of its Mount Laurel campus.
That's more than double the $26.9 million available for the state's 19 community colleges.
"We're taking the approach to cast as wide a net as possible, and we'll gladly accept all funds for which we are eligible," said college president Paul Drayton. "We're putting ourselves in that position to be eligible for any and all funding."
For community colleges, state bonds are cheaper than county bonds normally floated for construction.
"If we got money from this, it might save us from having to use other kinds of money," said Raymond Yannuzzi, president of Camden County College.
Camden County College applied in 2013 for $3.3 million to replace the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems in three halls on its Blackwood campus. The project, designed in 2010, was not funded and remains incomplete.
The college has been searching for funding to complete the work in pieces and will likely apply again for state money, Yannuzzi said. Camden County College also might submit some classroom renovation projects, he said.
Stockton University is drafting applications for work at its main campus in Galloway, including roof replacements, improvements, and renovations to its Coastal Research Center and water plant, purchase of generators, repairs to a spillway dam, and renovations to make facilities more accessible, a spokeswoman said.
Stockton also is considering seeking state funding for a residential campus it is planning in Atlantic City.
In 2012, New Jersey voters approved a $750 million "Building Our Futures" bond - the first such construction funding in 25 years. Colleges and universities applied for more than 250 projects, ranging from whole buildings to classroom renovations to WiFi upgrades. Dozens weren't given funding.
Burlington County College, as Rowan College at Burlington County was then known, was approved in 2013 to receive $2.64 million to renovate its Lewis Parker Center on the Pemberton campus. With the college now closing that campus and moving to Mount Laurel, Drayton has asked the state to reallocate the funding.
Rowan University spokesman Joe Cardona declined to comment on specific plans but said Rowan's funding applications have been about increasing capacity at the ever-growing school.
"We are looking at a variety of projects that have been on our priority list," he said, "but are not ready to disclose them publicly just yet."
Rowan received more than $117 million in 2013, for projects including the business and engineering buildings under construction.
The university was turned down for $30.6 million last time to fund an expansion of its School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford. It has not found other funding for that project.
Rowan also unsuccessfully sought $59.3 million to construct a health sciences building in Camden under the auspices of a joint board overseeing Rutgers-Camden and Rowan partnerships in the "health sciences." Kris Kolluri, CEO of the joint board, said he was exploring options to tap the new round of funding.
Rutgers-Camden will send at least three projects to New Brunswick, which will bundle the university's applications. The Writers House addition, for somewhere between 5,000- and 8,000-square-feet, would cost around $5 million, said Larry Gaines, the campus' vice chancellor for administration and finance.
A second project, costing $15 million, would renovate a string of empty buildings and vacant lots on Cooper Street, including at the 413, 415, 417, 421, and 423 addresses.
Both projects would provide space for faculty to move out of Armitage Hall and allow that building to house administrative and student services, Gaines said, which would itself free up space elsewhere.
Gaines also has eye on a major new building, a long-discussed but never-funded home for the business school.
"There's no chance. But shame on me if I don't put it forward," Gaines said. "Getting $5 million for the Writers House phase two is a lot easier than getting $60 million for the business school. That's a real hard nut to crack."
But Rutgers-Camden will ask for the money anyway. As with other schools, it's about lobbying, visibility, and not limiting options.
"Every time this comes up, I will put forward the business school, until we have one," Gaines said.