Letter: Freeholder Joe Derella on Cumberland County College FutureLast Edited:
For the past several years, the Cumberland County Freeholders have prioritized education, enhancing and growing quality educational options for our residents. This priority is based on the fact that education continues to be the passport to meaningful employment and economic growth for our region. In recent months, there has been much public discussion about the future of Cumberland County College. Unfortunately, a good deal of this discussion has been filled with misinformation and rumors.
The Freeholders are asking the Cumberland County College Board of Trustees to approve a resolution in support of exploring an opportunity to regionalize and become one institution. The basis for considering this new structure for higher education significantly benefits county residents as well as current future employers who maybe seeking a degree or a skilled workforce.
As initially proposed to be explored, our residents would benefit by having a direct pathway to educational opportunities through increased access and affordability. There would be several ways students will be able to affordably earn a four year degree from Rowan University. For example, freshmen students in the Rowan Choice Program will be able to have a campus residential experience by living on Rowan’s Campus while attending classes at one of the community college campuses. This option, which encourages students to pursue a four year degree, enables students to be University students while paying the lower community college tuition. This results in students earning a four degree for under $30,000.
Perhaps the most significant way students can save on cost and earn a four year degree is through the 3 + 1 program already in place at RCGC. For selected programs students can take classes for 3 years at the community college, paying the lower tuition rate, and then attend Rowan for their final year at the university rate. Students greatly reduce their debt load and the college gains an additional year of enrollment.
It should be noted that the direct Rowan pathway would be only one of the choices providing access to a four year degree. The current University Center would still maintain the four year relationships with our other college partners thereby providing choice for the students who may not wish to attend Rowan. Also, students can still transfer to their own personal college of choice at the end of community college experience.
Students wishing to pursue a degree in the medical profession will have direct access through a relationship with Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine (Rowan SOM). In addition, Inspira Healthcare Network has an existing location in Vineland with their newest location under construction in Mullica Hill. Both hospital campuses are directly off of Route 55. We would have the opportunity to incorporate the best practices of both institutions to generate career advancement for residents. The potential to develop an educational Allied Health Program at the Cumberland Campus and the ability to expand the Nursing Program at the Gloucester Campus would significantly enhance career opportunities for our citizens.
Students will also benefit from enhanced academic and career pathways between the two counties and their Career Technical (Vocational) and secondary schools.
Students will be able to earn stackable credentials with national certifications recognized across several growth industries. This concept will strengthen the relationship with regional workforce development talent networks while also supporting academic opportunities from high school through four year transfer programs.
Regionalizing the two community college systems into Rowan University creates a strong Southern New Jersey growth corridor. We envision this Southern New Jersey Corridor incorporating educational, workforce, and medical training programs that will link residents of Cumberland and Gloucester Counties to future economic opportunities. The opportunities and choices for residents are endless!
There are a number of guiding principles that must be followed in order for a concept such as the one outlined above to be implemented as outlined under New Jersey Administrative Code for Education, section 18A:64A-24, Joinder in operation of county colleges by other counties:
The first step must be an authorizing resolution from the Cumberland and Gloucester County Boards of Trustees authorizing the creation of an MOU to begin investigating this opportunity.
Notification and Approval must also be received from both the Secretary of Higher Education and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The process is estimated to take up to eight months and at the end of the investigation either party can approve or decline to move into a regional joinder agreement.
Here are facts for considering this endeavor:
Fact: Student enrollment has significantly dropped over the last 5 years.
Fact: There has been a 26% decline in credit enrollment since FY 13/14.
Fact: Burlington and Gloucester Counties have both seen increases in enrollment since forming their partnership with Rowan.
Fact: CCC 17/18 operational Budget Gap Projected to $2 Million if no shared services are implemented.
Fact: CCC has been offered proposals to reduce the deficit. If the collaborative proposals offered by the CCTEC and CCIA are implemented, that projected budget gap is reduced to $750,000.
Fact: Revenue at CCC is tied directly to enrollment, and therefore revenue continues to decline.
Fact: CCC Solvency, for the past several years, has been sustained through draconian cuts to administrative expenses which have resulted in exhausting all reasonable options for significantly reducing the budget.
It is important for everyone to recognize the educational opportunities that this potential Joinder agreement could provide. In today’s world, every opportunity must be explored. If we do nothing to effect the trends listed above, we may lose our beloved County College. We all need to realize that change is never fatal but failure to recognize the need for change can be. If at the end of the day, both College Boards of Trustees see no benefit then we have done our job. But to simply disregard this concept because of boundaries or home rule would be a missed opportunity that we can- not afford to take.
We encourage and welcome an open dialogue and hope that the information shared will be a firm basis for a fair and honest discussion about reaffirming the Freeholders commitment to education, particularly for existing and future students attending CCC.
— Joe Derella, Cumberland County Freeholder Director
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