Rutgers University will receive a $12.5 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to help cover the cost of integration into the school of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Rutgers announced Thursday.

The cost, estimated most recently at $76 million over the next three years, will be borne by Rutgers under the proposed state budget for next year. President Robert L. Barchi has said a the lack of funding would mean delaying maintenance and the start of some programs, though he did not offer specifics.

"Combining the outstanding health education offered by UMDNJ with Rutgers' many strengths in the arts, sciences, humanities, and professional schools will create an academic powerhouse that will rank among the nation's finest research universities," Barchi said in the statement announcing the donation. "We greatly appreciate the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's historic investment in Rutgers University's future."

The grant will support the development of the school's strategic plan and a facilities plan, and combining financial, human resources, and IT systems. The money also will help recruit "key academic and administrative leaders," the school said, and fund initiatives "communicating the benefits of integration to the people of New Jersey and beyond."

The foundation's grant, the largest it has given to Rutgers, is the first private donation the school has received to cover the costs of the merger, which goes into effect July 1.

"We hope that this lead grant will inspire others to help fund these important initiatives, and we will continue to actively seek their support," said Rutgers spokesman Greg Trevor. The university approached the foundation about helping with the merger costs, Trevor said.

Speaking to reporters in December, Barchi said he hoped to find private sources to help cover part of the costs. At the time, he said he expected legislators to make funds available as well.

"We certainly do expect that the state bears a significant responsibility here," Barchi said then. "We certainly don't have those kinds of margins in our operating budget to make this up."

Since then, the school's finances have come under legislative scrutiny. Recent budget hearings have included questions about the school's handling of a scandal involving the men's basketball coach that left it with $2.1 million in settlements to pay out. Legislators also asked about the school's allocation of funds across its three campuses.

Gov. Christie's proposed budget does not include separate funding to cover the merger costs. Barchi has said tuition hikes will not be used to cover one-time costs of the merger or the post-scandal firing and resignation settlements.

Contact Jonathan Lai at 856-779-3220, jlai@phillynews.com, or on Twitter @elaijuh.
This article contains information from the Associated Press.