Vision 2028 : A Call to Action
Building a Bold Vision for the Future
We live in a rapidly changing world, one where technological advances, economic forces, and demographic changes are continuously redefining the way we learn, work, and live.
For more than 50 years, New Jersey’s community colleges have been indispensable institutions throughout the state, providing high quality, affordable post-secondary education to hundreds of thousands of people and helping to build the skilled workforce that has underpinned the state’s economic growth.
Community colleges are perhaps the most dynamic institutions in the state and are a true reflection of the values, hopes, and diversity of New Jersey – and of America.
The community colleges have remained responsive to the needs of their local residents, employers, and communities while adapting to changing times.
New Jersey’s 19 community colleges are committed to building on this strong foundation, finding innovative solutions and cementing new partnerships that respond to our changing world. Because of this responsive mission, the community colleges, through the New Jersey Council of County Colleges, are developing a framework for the future that will articulate a bold vision for the years ahead. This effort, known as Vision 2028, will be shaped by the voices and insights of our multiple constituents and key partners, including community college administrators, faculty, students, alumni, high schools, colleges, universities, state and local government, employers, non-profit and community-based organizations, and the philanthropic community.
The Need for New Perspectives and Innovative Ideas
It will take new ideas and approaches to build a bold, ambitious agenda for the future and to further define these themes and priorities. We ask that you be a part of this effort. We welcome all ideas for how New Jersey’s community colleges can build on a strong foundation, be best positioned to prepare New Jerseyans to thrive in a rapidly changing world, and be institutions of solutions and innovation.
A Strong Tradition and Foundation
We have a strong foundation on which to build.
Many of the state’s community colleges have recently or will in the near future celebrate 50 years of service to the state. Some of the community colleges have even longer histories. Public support for more higher education opportunities led to the state’s establishment of a community college system through the New Jersey County College Act of 1962.
Today, 19 community colleges serve all 21 counties, offering a wide range of programs: associate degree programs that prepare students for careers or to transfer to a four-year college; career-focused credential and certificate programs that prepare students for jobs and careers; education and cultural programs that enrich the lives of the local community; and training partnerships with employers who are investing in the skills of their current employees.
Community colleges play a critical and central role in the state’s higher education system.
Throughout the past 50 years, New Jersey’s community colleges have been a remarkable resource for hundreds of thousands of New Jerseyans, providing an affordable and high quality start to higher education, imparting new skills and knowledge to individuals throughout their lives and careers, all while serving as vibrant anchors of their communities.
- New Jersey’s community colleges are now the largest sector of higher education in the state. More than 340,000 individuals took credit, noncredit, or training classes at community colleges last year.
- In 2017, a total of 23,557 people completed a degree or certificate program at a community college in New Jersey, an increase of 48% since 2008.
- Forty-five percent of all students who earned a bachelor’s degree from a New Jersey college or university had previously completed courses at a community college.
A Time for Innovation – Adapting to Technological, Economic, and Demographic Change
As the world changes, New Jersey’s community colleges are well positioned to innovate to ensure that they remain at the heart of solutions to the challenges and opportunities facing our state, our employers, and our residents.
Technology has placed a premium on cutting edge workforce education. New occupations and industries are being created and some occupations are being transformed. Demographic changes will continue to lead to an increasingly diverse population and an aging population with fewer high school graduates.
Broader trends in the economy have led to rising income inequality, while placing an even higher premium on skills and education. And although job creation has remained steady for the past seven years, skills gaps leave many jobs unfilled.
Amid these disruptions, two things are clear – change is constant and education is critical. Experts agree that the vast majority of individuals will need some post-secondary education in order to secure a family supporting job and career and to be able to be contributing members of our democracy. Experts also agree that most individuals will need to develop new skills throughout their lives and that many people will have multiple careers.
New Jersey has long benefited from having one of the most skilled, productive, and innovative workforces in the country and the world. New Jersey cannot take this long-standing competitive advantage for granted – as states, cities, and nations around the globe are catching up.
And not all New Jerseyans have obtained the education they will need in the future. Despite having an educated and skilled population, more than 2 million adults in New Jersey have no education after high school. An additional 1 million New Jerseyans have earned some college credits but have not earned a post-secondary degree.
Community colleges have been able to adapt to change and have served an increasingly diverse population, responded to the evolving needs of employers, and ensured that their services are tailored to the needs of the local community. New Jersey’s community colleges have found the right balance – working together as 19 community colleges while ensuring that each college is driven by the unique needs of their local communities.
A Time for Action – Developing Vision 2028
In the next three months, New Jersey’s community colleges will work together and with external partners to develop a framework for the future. This framework will guide the efforts of the colleges to work together and with partners across the state to embrace change and to ensure that the colleges are solutions to the challenges facing our state and a place of opportunity for all of our residents.
The development of the framework will be guided by the chairs of the community colleges’ boards of trustees and by community college presidents, who make up the New Jersey Council of County Colleges, and will incorporate new ideas and suggestions gathered from community college leaders and stakeholders across the state.
Community College Convenings – During the next three months, we will convene more than 15 meetings of community college leaders across the state to obtain input that will inform the framework for the future.
Perspectives/Innovative Ideas – We will seek input from a wide variety of partners, stakeholders, college leaders, students, and alumni. They will join this effort by offering their perspectives on the strengths of the state’s community colleges, areas for improvement, and areas for innovation through an online survey.
Statewide Leadership Summit – On Friday, November 16th, leaders from across the state will convene at Middlesex County College for an all-day summit to discuss changes in technology, the economy, and demographics, and help determine how community colleges adapt and respond in order to be the educational anchors of our communities in the future. Each community college will send a delegation to the summit and will join with leaders, partners, and stakeholders from across the state.
This effort will not start from square one. Instead, it will build on the countless discussions that have occurred among presidents, college leaders, faculty, staff, and partners in the past few years. It will also build on the strategic plans of all of the community colleges, the Council’s own strategic plan, and the important work of the Council’s Center for Student Success and Consortium for Workforce and Economic Development. The effort will also build on the latest research into effective strategies and practices. And most importantly, the effort will build on Governor Murphy’s recently released economic growth plan, the Governor’s proposal for free community college, and proposals from the state legislature. Finally, this framework for the future will help to inform the higher education strategic plan being developed by the Secretary of Higher Education.
Key themes have emerged from initial discussions and will form the framework for the Vision 2028 effort:
- Access – Community colleges provide an open door to higher education and a pathway to the middle class. We must continue to find ways to reduce the barriers that prevent people from obtaining a post-secondary degree or credential, by reducing the cost to students of attending community college and by building pathways to community college for high school students and adults, with the very best onboarding practices that provide exceptional customer service. We must continue to address equity gaps and ensure that all New Jerseyans – regardless of race, income, and socioeconomic circumstances – have access to a post-secondary education.
- Student Success – Community colleges must continue to ensure that all students who enroll in programs have a strong chance of completing those programs. Colleges must continue to deliver exceptional advising, guidance, and other integrated services to students to help them choose, stay on, and complete academic paths that lead to employment or transfer. Colleges must continue to find ways to provide supports to students, through mentoring and tutoring, new approaches to developmental education, and through access to social services supports that can ensure that a lack of child care, food, housing, and transportation are no longer barriers to completion.
- Valuable and Relevant Learning – Community colleges must continue to provide the essential skills and knowledge to students that will help them navigate and thrive in a rapidly changing world and economy. Colleges must continue to help students learn the skills that are demanded by the state’s key industries and employers, while ensuring that they have the broad set of skills needed to be citizens in a diverse world and to be lifelong learners.
- Community Anchors – Community colleges must continue to be cornerstones of their local communities by providing programs and services that enrich the lives of county residents and help to build community in an increasingly fractured world.
To address these themes, community colleges will build broader and deeper partnerships and strengthen current efforts to use data to drive decision-making at all levels.
- Partnerships – Community colleges must continue to build broader, deeper, and creative partnerships with a wide array of partners, employers, labor unions, state and local government, high schools, colleges, universities, community and faith-based organizations, and philanthropic organizations. Community colleges can provide the leadership needed to bring diverse groups together to build a skilled workforce and help build new pathways to economic opportunity.
- Data-Driven Decision-Making – Community colleges must continue to strengthen their efforts to use data to inform the wide array of decisions that are made each day on campuses across the state.
- Innovation – Community colleges must continue to provide professional development and supports to faculty, staff, and administrators to ensure that our entire community is able to adapt and thrive in an increasingly changing world.
Invitation to Action
Community colleges are well positioned to play a significant role in addressing many of the challenges and opportunities facing New Jersey. We cannot do this alone. And we need your perspectives, your partnership, and your ideas for innovation, both now and in the years ahead.
Please provide your suggestions for the future at:
If you or your organization is interested in partnering with community colleges, please contact the New Jersey Council of County Colleges at Vision2028@njccc.org.