Two-Year and Four-Year Colleges Join to Help Students Cope with Costs
Soaring higher-education costs prompt NJ schools to find innovative ways to help ease financial burden
When Rowan University announced Wednesday that it would allow students who spend three years at specific community colleges to pay $25,000 all told for a bachelor’s degree, it brought home just how radically higher education in New Jersey is changing.
But the Rowan announcement is simply the latest effort to try to deal with the crushing costs of college in New Jersey and to accommodate nontraditional students, many of whom work, have families, and may have to help with aging parents — or spouses or siblings who have lost jobs.
“Life has a way of intervening and causing disruption to schedules,” said Tobey Oxholm, executive vice president for administration and strategic advancement at Rowan.
To deal with these changes, administrators at colleges across the state (and across the country) are asking similar questions.
“How do we build bridges between two-year and four-year institutions?” said Craig Westman, associate chancellor for enrollment management at Rutgers University-Camden (RUC).
And though these partnerships can take a number of different forms, according to Jake Farbman, of the New Jersey Council of County Colleges, three broad models exist: articulation agreements, special partnerships, and degree completion programs.
One thing needs to be made clear, however. These hybrid programs in no way skimp on educational quality. In fact, Mark McCormick, vice president for academic and student affairs at Middlesex Community College, indicates that four of the last five students to win “student of the year” in a fast-track business of nursing B.S. partnership between the college and Felician University have all been Middlesex grads.
Partnerships between two- and four-year colleges appear to be win-win for both the schools and the students involved.
Students can save money and stay closer to home by earning an associate’s degree at a community college before transferring to a four-year university. Colleges can boost enrollment without having to pay for new buildings and dorms. And some universities, like Rowan, Kean University, Fairleigh Dickinson University and Felician University, are even awarding degrees to students who take university classes taught at their partner community colleges.
These models are viewed as so successful that at the end of the month, Passaic and Union county colleges are petitioning a state higher education advisory board for permission to launch their own four-year degree programs.
As noted, the cost of college has become a crisis. Student loans have surpassed credit cards as America’s number one source of debt, and the average New Jersey university student graduates owing almost $30,000.
That’s not surprising, given the numbers. The most expensive private institution in New Jersey, Stevens Institute of Technology, charges $47,000 for one year of undergraduate tuition and fees. In-state undergraduate tuition and fees at Rutgers University and Stockton University, for example, average $13,000 — bringing the cost of a four-year bachelor’s degree to more than $50,000.