By: Kevin Howard
Additional reporting and video by: Isaiah Showell
Additional reporting by: Ahmad Graves-El
VINELAND, N.J. – After 52 years in service, Cumberland County College (CCC) took a major step in becoming Rowan College of South Jersey (RCSJ).
On Friday, June 28th, at the Luciano Theatre, officials from Cumberland County College and Rowan College at Gloucester County (RCGC), along with other state and county officials, all came together to celebrate CCC’s past, and to look toward their future as part of RCSJ.
The Cumberland County Board of Trustees voted to close CCC earlier in the day, in preparation for the merger.
The merger of both colleges was approved by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education on Thursday, June 27th. The colleges join forces officially today: July 1st.
Both colleges will share resources between each other and with Rowan University. With this merger, RCSJ will give even more people access to affordable higher education.
Both colleges came together as a way to provide greater opportunities to students in both Cumberland and Gloucester county, and beyond.
“The joining of these two schools to create one Rowan College of South Jersey is exactly the right thing to do,” New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney said. “The students and residents will benefit from increased academic offerings and the opportunity for a seamless transition into Rowan University. I applaud the leadership of Gloucester County and Cumberland County for taking the initiative to create more affordable access to higher education for their residents.”
President of Rowan University, Ali Houshmand thinks the merger will give people options about how they want to direct their higher education.
“I think through this program we are going to create opportunities for a lot of kids to provide education, that is quality, that is affordable, that can reach anybody, no matter where, your neighbor, [if] they want to be [a] residential student or commuter, you should have the same options,” Houshmand said.
One reason for the merger was the rising cost of college. According to College Board, a nonprofit that tracks the prices of tuition, the average price at a public four-year college is $21,370 per year with tuition, fees, and room and board. For a student attending Rowan University for four years, that cost is upwards of $100,000. Attending a county college can save students tens of thousands of dollars.
Frederick Keating, president of RCGC — and soon-to-be president of RCSJ — says that securing a Premier Partnership with Rowan University will help students by giving them access to decreased tuition prices.
“Higher education is moving into the unaffordable column,” Keating said. “And college affordability can only be conquered by running the institutions in a more efficient manner. And attaching it, in our case, to a major research university.”
Students at both the Gloucester and Cumberland campuses will pay $152 per credit instead of paying the usual in-county and out-of-county prices.
Students from both RCSJ campuses can join the 3+1 program with Rowan University. Students in select majors can get their bachelor’s degree, paying community college prices for the first three years, then complete their final year at the university rate.
RCSJ students will also have access to the Rowan Work & Learn program, which gives them internship opportunities and “stackable credentials,” as students get ready to find full-time jobs after graduation.
Robert Clark, who served as the liaison between RCGC, CCC, and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, wants everyone to realize that the merger happened because people came together.
“There’s no one person who can take credit for this,” Clark said. “We all played a role. That extends not just to the folks I mentioned that work for the college, but also our public leaders, our residents of the two counties, our students. We’ve had support across the board.”
A new Board of Trustees that will run both campuses will be created with eight RCGC members and five CCC members.
For the Director of Conference and Events Operations at CCC, Beatrice Hughes, the day was emotionally stirring, but she thinks the future for RCSJ will be positive.
“I think it’s a lot of emotion for all of us that have been with Cumberland County College, that have retired from Cumberland County College, [and] the alumni,” Hughes said. “But, again, it’s looking forward to the opportunity that comes starting July 1st. I think it’ll be positive.”
Congressman Jeff Van Drew is excited to see all the hard work that was put into the merger and wants to see students at RCSJ go after their dreams.
“And so many people are dedicated, so many people gave so much of their treasure, so much of their work, so much of their efforts to make this a great place,” Van Drew said.”But what we also know is we want to move on, and we want to do and we wanted to expand and with this relationship and this partnership with Rowan, we have the ability to reach for the stars, and we should settle for nothing less.”
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