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by Rebecca Friedman; Mandy Frantz contributed to this report

Thanks to the increasing number of partnerships between two- and four-year higher learning institutions, the quality of education in South Jersey is only improving.

In today’s society, completing your higher education has become more of a requirement than an added bonus when entering the workforce, but with education costs rising, some are left unsure of whether or not it’s a venture they can handle.

Luckily, that’s becoming less and less of an issue in South Jersey thanks to partnerships between local community colleges and four-year institutions that are making it possible to receive the best education available.

While this type of cooperative learning is not necessarily new, it was nearly unheard of more than a decade ago and the rate at which it has grown is significant. Today, students at Burlington County College (BCC), Camden County College (CCC) and Gloucester County College (GCC) can receive a bachelor’s degree in addition to the standard associate’s without stepping foot off the local community college campus. Not only have the opportunities grown, but the specific degree options are vast: from a sports management degree with Fairleigh Dickinson University at CCC to engineering technology through Drexel University at BCC to a law and justice degree from Rowan University through GCC, students have a number of options to pick from when it comes to choosing a career path.

These options are especially beneficial because it allows students at the community colleges to earn the same bachelor’s degree as a student at the university, just without the burden of excessive costs often associated with the transition to a traditional four-year program, and the added incentive of continuing your education locally.

Working together
Burlington County College has partnerships with three local institutions— Drexel, Fairleigh Dickinson and Wilmington University—which offer four-year degree programs on its campus to students who have completed their associate’s degrees.

"As the only higher education institution with roots in Burlington County, we find these partnerships to be a critical component to keeping our students in South Jersey," says David C. Hespe, president of BCC. "It offers Burlington County residents an opportunity to achieve the same four-year degree they would have received if they started at the out-of-state/out-of-region university at an affordable cost. We want to contribute to the economic vibrancy of the region and this is one way we hope to accomplish this."

As an example, the Drexel at BCC program, which began in 2006, allows students to stay on the community college’s Mount Laurel campus and earn a four-year degree in a variety of fields, including culinary arts, computer engineering and construction management, instead of making the trip to the school’s Philadelphia campus each day. “[Students will] need to follow a plan of study, but it will lead them to their degree from Drexel,” says Bernetta McCall-Millonde, director of Drexel at BCC. “It is quite seamless.”

The Drexel partnership also offers a co-op program, giving students the opportunity to get up to 12 months of real-world work experience before graduating. The co-op program not only shows students what it would really be like to work in a certain field post-graduation, but also opens the door for future careers and gets students out into their local community.

BCC also has a Guaranteed Admissions Program, where students registered for the program are guaranteed admission to more than a dozen four-year colleges, and a seamless transfer of their credits, as long as they follow guidelines maintained by their four-year college of choice while at BCC earning their associates.

Offering options
Another example of the growing relationship between traditional four-year institutions and community colleges can be found in the partnership between Camden County College and nearby Rutgers - Camden.

Just this summer, the two institutions expanded their partnership and Rutgers - Camden will now offer its bachelor of arts in business administration (BABA) and bachelor of arts in psychology programs at CCC’s Blackwood campus. By expanding their partnership, which previously only included a program where students could earn a bachelor of arts in liberal studies, the schools are allowing for greater opportunities for students who would like to earn more specific degrees but cannot afford the larger four-year school after they complete their associate’s degree.

What makes the program unique is that while the required classes for these degrees will be offered on CCC’s Blackwood campus, participating students will “go to class as a Rutgers student and be taught by a Rutgers professor,” says Michael Sepanic, associate chancellor of External Relations at Rutgers - Camden.

CCC also partners with Rutgers - New Brunswick for their nursing program, where students complete their pre-nursing degree at CCC, apply to the Rutgers College of nursing program, and complete their schooling through the Rutgers at Camden County–Blackwood program.

Programs with Farleigh Dickinson University (sports management) and Thomas Edison State College (up to 90 credits for all majors offered) are also in place, further allowing students to complete a four-year degree without being constricted by the resources of only one institution.

Dual acceptance
Gloucester County College offers a dual advantage program with Fairleigh Dickinson and Rowan universities that allows the students to stay on GCC’s Sewell campus while earning their degree. Participating students receive dual acceptance letters that not only make them students at GCC, but also enrolls them concurrently at either Fairleigh Dickinson or Rowan, says Dr. Fredrick Keating, president of GCC.

The University of Maryland and Wilmington University also participate in the dual advantage program, but students work via online classes or modules on the larger university’s campus in conjunction with their work at the Sewell GCC campus. Each participating four-year university has a representative at GCC’s career center. After deciding on the university they wish to attend, students meet with that institution’s representative to plan their next steps toward earning a college degree.

Deciding on a path for completing higher education can be difficult, but these partnerships are making local community colleges a viable option for students motivated to earn a bachelor’s degree without the financial means to attend a four-year institution. They also allow students to properly prepare to enter the working world without accumulating excessive debt in the process, while staying in South Jersey rather than heading out-of-state.

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Biz, Volume 3, Issue 8 (August, 2013).
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