Rowan University and Gloucester County College (GCC) partnered Jan. 10 in a new model of higher education, one that will create better access to a college education and more opportunities for residents of southern New Jersey.
Under an expanded partnership, GCC will change its name to Rowan College at Gloucester County and offer conditional dual enrollment with Rowan University.
While GCC will take the Rowan name, the community college will maintain its independence with its own Board of Trustees and administration.
"This unique and creative partnership serves as a model for how our community colleges should be working with our state institutions to create alternative pathways for students. It addresses several critical issues, including the affordability of a college education, access to a four-year degree program and better use of facilities," said N.J. Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney. "I commend the boards of Rowan and GCC, Rowan University President Ali Houshmand and GCC President Fred Keating for their vision in serving our region."
Conditional dual enrollment means that Rowan College students who meet program criteria can seamlessly transfer to the University in Glassboro to complete their baccalaureate degree or, depending on their major, stay on Rowan College's Sewell campus and finish a four-year degree there.
Students who remain on the Sewell campus will receive a 15-percent discount on University tuition and fees and may complete baccalaureate programs in liberal studies, humanities and social science, law and justice, education, and business economics. Plans are underway to add additional degree options.
Through the partnership, students may complete their associate degree and enter the University as a first-semester junior or transfer sooner to the University to finish their bachelor's and receive an associate degree retroactively, an arrangement known as a "reverse transfer agreement." Earning both an associate and bachelor's degree gives students a valuable second credential.
Rowan University President Ali Houshmand noted that the need for greater access to higher education is dire in southern New Jersey. Here, he said, there are approximately 100 adults for every college seat while the ratio nationally averages about 30 to one. He said by leveraging classroom space and other resources, the two schools are creating more opportunities.
"We strongly believe that as a state institution Rowan University has an obligation to continue to explore and develop pathways that provide students access to a four-year degree," said Houshmand. "The agreement provides affordable, high-quality alternatives for the entire spectrum of students."
Partnership Benefits All
For students, conditional acceptance to Rowan University presents a clear path to a four-year degree and discounted tuition if they complete their degree at the Sewell campus. A key component of the partnership is comprehensive advising so they stay on track to complete their associate degree quicker and matriculate into the University.
Rowan College is expected to draw more students to its Sewell campus because of its close alignment with the University, including high school graduates who might otherwise leave the state to pursue a four-year degree, particularly in business, education, social sciences and health sciences. Approximately 30,000 students leave the state for college each year, many of whom settle where they graduate.
Rowan University will benefit as its relationship with the community college, long one of its main feeder schools, prepares even more well-qualified students to transfer in.
The Future of Health Sciences
More than 20 percent of GCC students enroll in health science programs and officials from both schools believe that number will rise with demand for well-paying opportunities in medical fields.
Through the partnership, Rowan College will become the new home for Rowan University's nursing program, which includes an RN-to-BSN option and will eventually include master's and doctoral level nursing education. The program will be based in the Nursing and Allied Health Center, a $9.5 million, 41,000-square-foot building for which ground was broken in October.
The partnership fits especially well with Rowan University's rapid development in medical education. Since 2012, with the opening of Cooper Medical School of Rowan University in Camden, and the 2013 acquisition of the School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford, administrators have sought to complement the schools' M.D. and D.O. programs with nursing and other health studies.
To that end, Rowan is partnering with Rutgers-Camden in a new College of Health Sciences, operates undergraduate and graduate schools of biomedical sciences, and is developing a new degree in biomedical engineering.
Building the Bridge: High School to College
Gloucester County College President Frederick Keating noted that ever since plans for the Rowan-GCC partnership were unveiled in the fall, students, parents and school officials from districts around the region have expressed interest in being part of it.
"Interest in the community college's academy programs, which enable the best-prepared high school students to earn college credits as early as their sophomore year, spiked as news of the partnership was first announced," Keating said. "They're excited because we're creating greater access to quality education that's affordable and transferrable."
Gloucester County Freeholder Director Robert Damminger believes the closer relationship will enable southern New Jersey to retain smart, educated college graduates who otherwise might settle out of the region or out of state.
"Today's knowledge economy dictates that people need a four-year degree," Damminger said. "This partnership ensures that students will be able to earn one at an affordable cost. More importantly, the partnership will develop the talent pool needed to draw companies and jobs to the region. An educated work force is that first step."