Community college: A reliable and proven pathway to a better future

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our way of life, from students attending classes only online, to parents working from home, to businesses operating under tight constraints, to communities with limited interactions. Scenes of peaceful protests and social unrest, which call attention to acts of discrimination and inequity, fill our news feeds and televisions. As we learn to navigate through this unpredictable and historical time, one of New Jersey’s best-kept secrets — community colleges — remains a reliable and proven pathway to a better future.

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Frederick Keating, president of Rowan College of South Jersey.

Despite being in existence for five decades, New Jersey’s community colleges often do not receive the recognition deserved. Across the state, community colleges serve more than 300,000 people annually, providing credit, non-credit and workforce development education. More than half of all New Jersey undergraduate students in public colleges and universities attend community colleges.

As the president of Rowan College of South Jersey, it is rewarding to see the difference our Gloucester and Cumberland campuses have made in the lives of so many South Jersey residents. By providing a quality education that is affordable and accessible to all populations, community colleges improve economic opportunities for students, employers and the local community. Our graduates enter the workforce skilled and ready to earn a middle-class living wage with little to no debt, or transfer to four-year universities, saving approximately $20,000 on their bachelor’s degrees.

During this time of uncertainty, Rowan College of South Jersey maintains a stable presence in the higher education arena, committed to moving students forward in their career goals. Cost-saving offerings in partnership with Rowan University, financial aid, scholarships and grants, like the Community College Opportunity Grant — which provides the first two years of college for free — and the $2.14 million National Science Foundation grant for the Adelante Juntos STEM program, make earning a college degree a reality.

Higher education also is the answer to closing the inequality gap now troubling our country. A more highly educated society is proven to level the playing field when it comes to both inequality and discrimination. Rowan College of South Jersey is proud to serve our students and local neighborhoods by providing higher education opportunities to all members of our community.

September is upon us, and students across the country are returning to class. For those who lost track of time or needed to evaluate options, don’t worry — most community colleges offer late-start sessions. Students needing to delay their fall semester, or only recently deciding to improve their earning potential, still have time to enroll through October in Rowan College of South Jersey’s “Flex Start” courses, for instance. Keep moving forward and be prepared to meet the challenges of today and the future.

Frederick Keating is the president of Rowan College of South Jersey. He was recently named to the ROI-NJ Influencers: Higher Education list.