The Critical Role of Community Colleges in New Jersey

Now, more than ever, New Jersey’s future and that of its residents depend on a strong network of community colleges. New Jersey’s community colleges fulfill a remarkable number of vital roles: I) they prepare students to succeed in four-year institutions; II) they train residents in accelerated, industry- recognized, and stackable workforce training programs to meet labor market demands; III) they provide access to high quality post-secondary programs for the state’s most vulnerable residents; and IV) they serve as dynamic engines of both economic development and civic engagement. Their impact is beyond measure.

New Jersey’s 18 community colleges serve more than 300,000 people each year in credit, non-credit, and workforce development courses. Over 200,000 students - more than half of all undergraduate students in public colleges and universities in the state - are enrolled at New Jersey’s community colleges. The community colleges also enroll nearly 100,000 students in non-credit programs and partner with thousands of businesses to meet their training and workforce needs. Consider their vital role:

Serving thousands of first-generation college students;

Welcoming displaced workers and providing them a pathway to employment and prosperity;

Partnering with companies to deliver focused and effective professional development and training;

Encouraging high school students to enroll in dual enrollment courses to jump-start their college careers; and

Motivating students to become critically engaged and serve their communities.

We live in an increasingly global, connected, and digital world and New Jersey’s community colleges are quick to help students and residents prepare and thrive in this fast-changing reality. Our colleges demonstrate a singular focus and passion to provide accessible and affordable excellence. Quite simply, New Jersey’s community colleges are instrumental in creating a stronger and fairer economy.

New Jersey’s community colleges are critical in helping our state and communities respond to and recover
from this crisis. A significant number of those who are on the frontlines of this crisis, in hospitals, as first responders, and as workers in essential businesses, including retail, transportation and manufacturing, received their education and training at a community college. Community colleges have prepared a sizable share of the healthcare workforce, with more than 20,000 students currently enrolled in healthcare education and training programs across the state. New Jersey’s community colleges will also assist the significant number of people who have lost their jobs in the state and will continue to expand already strong partnerships with businesses to meet the workforce needs of the state’s industries. New Jersey’s 18 community colleges are uniquely rooted in their local communities and have the statewide reach of few other institutions.

The state’s community colleges have strong partnerships with the K-12 sector, providing dual enrollment programs to prepare students for post-secondary education and to provide a more seamless pathway to further education. New Jersey’s community colleges enjoy a special relationship with New Jersey’s county-based vocational technical schools, working in collaboration to prepare students for careers in the innovation economy. The community colleges also have strong partnerships and articulation agreements with New Jersey’s public and independent four-year colleges and universities. Playing a critical role in baccalaureate degree attainment, 45% of all students who graduate from a New Jersey four-year college or university previously attended a community college.

Of course, any response demands an integrated, collaborative, and innovative strategy and targeted investments from the state and federal governments. And while it is impossible to predict the full extent of this abrupt and unprecedented economic downturn, it is certain that, with thousands of individuals rendered unemployed and businesses closing doors, the state will confront a massive number of economic and social challenges.

New Jersey’s community colleges will be critical in solving the state’s challenges, in rebuilding the economy, and in offering critical workforce training to close the skills gaps. Most importantly, New Jersey’s community colleges, the essential partner in this urgent time, will provide open and affordable access to all New Jerseyans, offering all residents the tools to transform their lives.

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