Rutgers signs deal to offer bachelor’s at county college

Students can now earn a bachelor’s degree from the University without ever stepping foot on a Rutgers campus.

The University recently unveiled an agreement with the County College of Morris that allows students with associate’s degrees to earn a Rutgers baccalaureate on CCM’s campus.

Dwight Smith, vice president of Academic Affairs at CCM, said the deal was negotiated during the past year and mirrors similar agreements the University maintains with other county colleges across the state.

“I think what’s exciting to people in Morris County is that students can take their associate’s degree courses, obtain an associate’s degree, transfer to Rutgers-Newark within five different programs and take those courses here at the Randolph campus,” Smith said.

The five majors included initially will be psychology, journalism, criminal justice, graphic design and public and non-profit administration, he said. Those programs would open to the public in the fall of 2014 and Rutgers tuition would apply.

“Rutgers faculty will be teaching the courses,” Smith said. “Rutgers-Newark will [provide] a staff member, and we are working on final arrangements to provide a space for that person to advise students who might be interested in pursuing the five programs of study.”

Joe Walsh, manager of Academic Programs, is one such staff member at Brookdale Community College in Middletown, N.J. His responsibilities include advising students interested in the program as well as acting as an intermediary between the two schools.

“My duties and the duties of other managers are to provide on-site academic advising and coordinate all the actions between Rutgers and the community college,” he said.

Walsh said he feels integrated into Brookdale’s operations, and he spends more time at the county college despite being a Rutgers employee. Similarly, students enrolled in the program are considered Rutgers students despite never having to visit a Rutgers campus.

Since its inception in 1998, the Brookdale agreement has expanded from around two programs to 10, and coordination between the colleges has grown and evolved over time, Walsh said.

For example, Walsh said when the agreement first launched, students at Brookdale could not use WebReg or Degree Navigator — now they can. He is still working to bridge the gap between off-campus students and the main Rutgers campuses.

Walsh said the progress was due in part to 2008 legislation that provided a uniform protocol for transfers within the state of New Jersey because it eliminated confusion surrounding general education requirements.

Barbara Fiorella, vice president for Degree Completion Programs at Rutgers, said the state-wide transfer law improved coordination between all colleges by establishing a general outline that, if followed, required four-year universities to bring in transfers as juniors.

The result, she said, was that all colleges in the state were now on the same page academically, and it makes off-campus programs like the ones at Brookdale and CCM run smoother.

To establish the agreements, Rutgers and the community college sign a Memorandum of Understanding, under which individual departments install separate articulation agreements, Fiorella said.

“[Articulation agreements] are added on ad hoc basis,” she said. “So, it’s an evolution.”

As of fall 2013, the off-campus programs offer 97 face-to-face courses, host 750 undergraduate students and graduated 143 students last year from January to October, according to data obtained from the University’s Division of Continuing Studies.

“We’re providing access to people that cannot come to one of the three main campuses of Rutgers,” she said. “These people are working, they have families — so we are bringing to them what they need instead of them having to come to us. It’s very rewarding.”

Richard Novak, vice president for Continuing Studies and Distance Education at Rutgers, said the program expands accessibility by making college more affordable and removing long commutes from the equation.

“We are making it possible for students in [New Jersey] to receive a Rutgers degree and save money by staying close to home,” he said via email.

Novak said CCM marks the fifth agreement to be put in place. He said the University is in discussion with other colleges that could not yet be named, but that several more partnerships, perhaps three to five, could be expected in the next five years.

“We believe we are helping to carry out the Rutgers University mission to serve the state of [New Jersey], and we believe we provide students with a high quality educational experience,” he said.

The signing ceremony was snowed out in December and has been rescheduled for Feb. 27, 2014. Rutgers-Newark programs should launch at CCM in fall 2014.

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