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The Relationship Between Two- and Four-Year Institutions of Higher Education Solidifies

October 15, 2007

By Birritteri, Anthony

Obtaining a bachelor’s and master’s degree is becoming a “closer- to-home” experience for the residents of New Jersey’s 21 counties, as more four-year institutions of higher education are building facilities and sending faculty to teach at community colleges. The arrangements are win-win situations for everyone involved: the two- and four-year colleges and students – especially nontraditional, working students who juggle full-time jobs and families. The closer- to-home pursuit of a college degree can mean less or no time spent traveling on the state’s busy highways. In some instances, it may also mean lower tuition costs for a four-year degree.

According to Kenneth Ender, president of Cumberland County College, Vineland, the concept of building four-year facilities at a community college campus traces its roots back to the early to mid- 1990 with schools such as Lorain Community College, Elyria, Ohio, offering bachelor’s (B.A.) degree completion programs at a separate building constructed specifically for four-year and graduate schools. The idea soon spread across the country.

The concept is not new in New Jersey. Six years ago, Brookdale Community College, Lincroft, Monmouth County, opened the New Jersey Coastal Communiversity at a former military base in Wall Township, in which, since it opened, 500 students have received bachelor’s and master’s (M.A.) degrees from four participating four-year institutions: Rutgers, New Jersey City, Montclair and Georgian Court universities.

According to Anita Voogt, dean of the Communiversity (a term which Brookdale coined), the benefits of such agreements are primarily for the students. “It increases access to post associate’s degree education in a more affordable way. The schools are coming to you rather than you spending half of your life on the Garden State Parkway,” she says. “It opens up new markets for four-year institutions. For us, it positions Brookdale as ‘two years and beyond.’ We are no longer just Brookdale Community College, but Brookdale with a very well-paved avenue to a bachelor’s degree.”

While most four-year institutions charge their students at a community college site the same tuition as if they were attending their main campus, there is an exception at Brookdale’s Communiveristy. Georgian Court is offering its programs at a 25 percent reduced rate.

The Communiversity has 18 classrooms, of which three are computer classrooms and two are interactive television classrooms. The degree programs offered are in five areas of study: business administration, education, health sciences, information technology and liberal arts. “Our goal is to offer the entire pathway, from associate’s (AA) degrees to bachelor’s and master’s,” says Voogt. Currently, 80 percent of courses offer the pathway up to a master’s degree. Additionally, 80 percent of the students enrolled in the Communiversity are Brookdale graduates who have received their AA degree.

Set to open in the Spring of 2008, is Cumberland County College’s (CCC) $6-million Shirlee and Bernard Brown University Center. This will be a 46,000 square-foot, 12-classroorn facility that will be used by the four-year and graduate institutions already teaching at the campus: Fairleigh Dickinson, Montclair, Rowan and Georgian Court universities and Richard Stockton College in New Jersey, plus Franklin University in Columbus, Ohio, and Wilmington College, Delaware. “Our goal, when looking for partners, is to make sure we could get B.A. and M.A. degrees in specific industries in which we are committed to building career pathways, from high school to the B.A. degree,” says Ender. These areas include law and public safety, education, business, healthcare, retail, hospitality, construction and engineering. Currently, CCC’s partners are offering a total of 14 B.A. programs and three M.A. programs at the community college.

Ender says the four-year and graduate institutions are not contributing money toward the construction of the center. The funds are coming from a $1-million endowment from Shirlee and Bernard Brown and county and state money.

Discussing the benefit of the facility, Ender says CCC has “a specific mission to serve residents. To the extent that we can provide access to B.A. and M.A. education at a reasonable rate for residents, and we can connect the degrees to high-growth industries in the county that we want to nourish, there is every reason in the world to build this facility,” he explains. He adds that the four- year institutions can also come in with program ideas they think can be marketable to county residents.

CCC students working toward their associate’s degrees in the programs mentioned also will be using the University Center, so that they get comfortable in the building. “When you walk into the facility, it will be like no other building on campus. Banners from all the other universities will be hanging on the walls, there will be faculty support offices, student lounges, academic advising and administrative space,” Ender explains.

In researching such buildings, Kathy Mack, executive director of CCC’s University Center, visited similar facilities around the country, including the Lorain Community College site in Ohio. “What we wanted to incorporate at our site was flexibility in the classroom,” she says. “We not only wanted classrooms with desks and chairs, but tables and flexible groupings to move students around. The classrooms will vary in size because not all are going to have 30 or 40 students in them. We also want the building to be up-to- date in regards to technology. The building is designed with wireless technology and any classroom can turn into a computer lab, if need be.”

At Atlantic Cape Community College, Mays Landing, Richard Perniciaro, dean of administration planning and research, says, “Four-year colleges and universities are approaching the college all the time to offer classes. At the college’s Mays Landing and Atlantic City campuses, institutions such as Rutgers and Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) are instructing students in modular classrooms.

While Rutgers has been teaching liberal arts, hospitality and offering an M.B.A degree at the college, this fall, it added psychology and criminal justice to the mix.

According to Perniciaro, Atlantic Cape charges Rutgers a fee for being on its campus to cover custodial, security and other costs. Rutgers has its own IT link into its university system, giving students their own e-mail accounts and access to a variety of online data. The modular classrooms are also equipped with the latest audiovisual equipment to view video courses. “It is basically a Rutgers remote site,” he says.

Some 80 students are taking Rutgers courses at Atlantic Cape, filling three classrooms. A fourth classroom is planned. “The university is happy with its success here, but it also understands it takes a few years to build up the programs,” Perniciaro says.

He says community colleges take two different approaches when it comes to having B.A. and M.A. programs on campus. Some decide to use just one partner and build up critical mass, while others open the doors to whom ever wants to offer courses. “These are the two conflicting philosophies right now. Colleges are feeling their way around to see what works best,” he says.

FDU has been offering a hospitality program at Atlantic Cape’s campus in Atlantic City for the past eight years. The private university is also teaching at the Mays Landing campus.

Ender at CCC says FDU has been the most aggressive private institution offering courses and degree programs at community colleges. “In general, private institutions see this as an entrepreneurial approach to building enrollment at their institutions,” he says.

Saving Space

Administrators on the community college level also say four-year colleges and universities are interested in offering degree programs at the latter two-year institutions because they do not have the space on their own campuses to build additional facilities. At Ocean County College, Toms River, Dr. Judith IckIan, executive vice president, points to Kean University, Union, which is offering teacher certification, nursing, criminal justice, liberal arts, history, sociology, media and film, and, most recently, business management and accounting (it is currently discussing an M.B.A program at the community college). She says Kean is “at capacity at its Union campus and cannot grow unless it grows someplace else.”

At New Jersey City University, which is the largest participant at Brookdale’s Communiversity, with more than 600 students enrolled in its B.A., M.A. and M.S. (master’s of science) programs, Joanne Bruno, vice president for academic affairs, adds, “We are pretty full to capacity in Jersey City. We are in an urban setting and parking is an issue. We find students won’t come to us because of that and other issues. So the benefit is we are able to offer degree programs at other institutions. In this day and age, you have to go to the students,” she says.

Though it is not housed in its own facility at OCC, Kean has paid for classroom renovations at Ocean’s largest instructional building. Icklan says this is an intermediary step while Kean grows its programs. A master plan is underway for what would be known as the Kean at Ocean Campus. “Enrollment needs to grow in order to justify and fund a building program,” she says.

FDU is also offering a hospitality management program at the Ocean campus. Additionally, Kean University announced it will start offering R.N. (registered nursing) B.S.N. (bachelor’s of science in nursing) degrees, plus an executive M.B.A and program at Raritan Valley Community College, North Branch.

Icklan say these programs stop the migration of students going to out-of-state colleges – stemming the brain drain, Icklan stresses. Two major programs also helping stop this migration are the New Jersey Student Tuition Assistance Reward Scholarship (NJSTARS) I and II programs, offering the top 20 percent of senior high school students free tuition to a community college (STARS I) and graduating sophomores at a community college with a 3.0 average, scholarships to public four-year colleges or universities (STARS II).

“Ocean County leads the state in the number of STARS students we have recruited – well over 500. These were the types of students going out of state. Now we are keeping the best and brightest in New Jersey,” she says.

At Camden County College, Blackwood, President Raymond Yannucci says Rowan University is now offering education, law and justice courses, though these do not lead to B.A. degrees. New Jersey Institute of Technology, however, is offering a master’s in engineering at the community college’s Cherry Hill campus, as are New Jersey City University (a master’s in education) and Rutgers (an M.B.A program).

“That was part of the idea in building our Cherry Hill campus being in an area accessible to a lot of businesses and corporations where we might get students interested in pursuing master’s degrees,” says Yarmucci.

The community college is in active discussions with Rowan and Rutgers universities and Stockton College for more programs to be taught on its campus. According to Yannucci, “We are happy to participate and offer more courses. As a community college, we are not interested in changing our mission, but we have many students who want to go on and get their B.A., and they would like to do it as close to home as possible. We can also help these four-year institutions with their capacity issues.”

While most four-year and postgraduate institutions, again, charge juniors and seniors obtaining their B.A. or M.A. at a community college the same per-credit-hour rate as they would students attending their main campuses, the College of St. Elizabeth (CSE), Morristown, has a special relationship with the County College of Morris in (CCM) Randolph. Upon receiving the 64 credits required for obtaining an associate’s degree in the justice studies program at CCM, an additional 32 credits can be taken at the CCM credit- hourrate at CSE. The only remaining 32 credits of a 128-credit program, is paid at the higher fouryear rate (this can equate to the last full year of college) while attending County College of Morris.

According to Dr. James Dlugos, vice president and dean of academic affairs at CSE, one course, at the end of the County College of Morris program, is taught at the CSE campus. “Part of this is philosophical,” he says. “We would like to have these students experience our campus.

Establishing the Relationships

Whether it’s a Communiversity, a University Center, or simply instructors teaching in an existing classroom, these relationships are created with the deans, administrators, instructors and businesses looking into the needs of the local communities. They are also based on enrollment numbers of popular courses on the community college level that may “feed” the B.A. and M.A. programs.

For example, Icklan at OCC keeps tabs on student enrollment trends in the associate’s degree programs the college offers. “We look at the number of students completing degrees, and then we look at how realistically we can articulate them into a four-year program. In areas such as nursing and criminal justice, we have a huge pipeline,” she says.

Brookdale’s Voogt also commerits that four-year institutions should teach their courses with full-time faculty, not just adjunct professors. When the Communiversity started, she recalls professors from four-year colleges teaching at both their main campus and at Brookdale. Today, the colleges have dedicated full-time teachers solely at the Communiversity.

“We control the hiring of our faculty at the Communiversity,” says NJCU’s Bruno. She adds that the program has grown so large that NJCU has 30 instructors at the site.

Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

Besides four-year colleges offering B.A. and M.A. programs at community college sites, the two types of institutions have strong relationships in place through transfer or articulation agreements. This concept, active long before the idea of onsite B.A. and M.A. programs at county colleges, eases the transfer of credits a student has taken at the community college into the four-year institution.

“Our university has always been generous with the transfer of credits and we try to apply as many of the courses taken [on the county-college level] to our degree programs,” says Jean Judge, associate dean, life and career advising center at Monmouth University, West Long Branch. “We accept 72 credits from any New Jersey community college. There is always something going wrong, but over the years, we have had less and less issues [with the transfer of credits]. We are constantly communicating with the community colleges, giving them a heads up if we are changing curriculum.”

She advises students and parents to visit NJ Transfer (www. njtransfer.com), the Website where community college students can find out how their courses and credits can transfer to a four-year institution.

At Ramapo College of New Jersey, the four-year state institution in Mahwah, Dr. Beth Barnett, provost and vice president of academic affairs, says the institution also has a good attitude regarding students who transfer with A.A. degrees. She admits, I have enough difficulty providing classes for all students who want them, so I certainly don’t want a transfer student taking a course they’ve already taken.”

She does say, however, that some four-year institutions have the philosophy that what goes on at a county college may not be as good as what goes on at their college.

In moving onto a four-year institution, Dr. Wallace Smith, vice president of academic affairs at Union County College (UCC), Cranford, says it helps if community college students receive their A.A. before transferring. Credit transfer problems usually arise when a student does not complete the entire A.A. degree. Problems also arise when students decide to completely change their major when entering the four-year institution. “Transferring from an accounting program at UCC into a nursing program elsewhere, for example, is not completely appropriate. Usually articulation is pretty strong, but when it’s a different major, that’s when things get difficult,” Wallace says.

Luckily, the transfer problem may be a thing of the past. On September 13, Governor Corzine signed a bill (A3968/S2535), known as the New Jersey Statewide Transfer Agreement, which will make all public four-year institutions in the state accept all credits from community college students in New Jersey who have received their A.A. and A.S. (associates in science) degrees.

“This is the right bill at the right time,” says Lawrence Nespoli, president of the New Jersey Council of County Colleges, Trenton. “Some 40 states have such agreements in place. We haven’t had that in the state. What we have had was a course-by-course, college-by-college approach with hundreds of articulation agreements in place. For students who closely track courses and credits between their community college and a specific four-year institution, there is no problem, but life is never that neat or tidy If a student doesn’t transfer into the four-year school they are tracking, there may be problems. So, we end up with too many students losing too many credits when they transfer. It is bad for them, bad for the state and bad for the counties that fund the colleges.”

Three key features of bill, according to Nespoli, are: one based on further work by the New Jersey President’s Council (the 50- member board made up of presidents from community, state and private colleges) all general education courses taken at the community college level will transfer as a block into the four-year program; two – courses taken at the community college that relate to a major would transfer as the lower-level major course equivalents of the four-year institution; three – the President’s Council and the Commission on Higher Education on behalf of the public institutions, will monitor the implementation of the legislation and provide an appeals process for students, should problems arise.

The legislation will take effect and impact students entering their junior year in the 2008 fall semester. Private institutions can participate in the program if they choose to do so.

Asked what will happen to the existing transfer agreements in place between all community and four-year colleges, Nespoli says, “These agreements would have to be in line with what the statewide agreement provides.”

He says it will definitely mean an increase in community college students receiving their A.A. degrees, rather than transferring at an earlier stage with less credits.

Conclusion

The relationships between community colleges and four-year institutions are strengthening, making the pursuit of a higher education degree easier and more affordable. The possible result, in the long run, may mean that the best and brightest students remain in the Garden State.

Copyright New Jersey Business & Industry Association Oct 2007

(c) 2007 New Jersey Business. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.




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