How NJ college presidents are divided on community college bachelor’s degrees

College presidents in New Jersey are split over a proposal from two North Jersey community colleges seeking to confer bachelor’s degrees in nursing.

Four-year public colleges and universities especially appear to oppose the move by Passaic County Community College and Union County College, which other community colleges are supporting.

The Inquirer reported Sunday on the divide — and an important upcoming vote. Some information was left out for space considerations.

Below, based on documents and interviews, are some of the responses from colleges and universities. This is not a comprehensive list; New Jersey has 19 community colleges and the New Jersey Presidents’ Council web site lists 53 members.

Jump to a specific college by selecting its link below:

Berkeley College
Caldwell University
Camden County College
Centenary College
Eastwick College
Essex County College
Felician University
Kean University
Middlesex County College
Montclair State University
New Jersey City University
New Jersey Institute of Technology
Rowan College at Burlington County
Rowan College at Gloucester County
Rowan University
Rutgers University
Stockton University
The College of New Jersey
Thomas Edison State University


 

Berkeley College

A representative of the school voted in favor of the Passaic and Union proposals at a Dec. 9 meeting of the Academic Issues Committee of the New Jersey Presidents’ Council, conducted by conference call.

The for-profit four-year school is based in Passaic County and does not offer an RN-to-BSN program of the type Passaic County Community College is proposing.

Caldwell University

The Catholic liberal arts private school in Essex County voted against the Passaic and Union proposals at a Dec. 9 meeting of the Academic Issues Committee of the New Jersey Presidents’ Council, conducted by conference call.

Camden County College

Raymond Yannuzzi, the president of Camden County College, said he supports the Union and Passaic proposals and will vote in favor of them at the Jan. 25 New Jersey Presidents’ Council meeting.

“I’m all in favor of everyone being able to get as thorough and high-quality education as he or she wants and can afford, so let us do it, let the community colleges do it!” Yannuzzi said.

“If you want to talk about public policy and where tax dollars are going, you know the community colleges are more thrifty in that way,” he said.

Yannuzzi said his school could consider baccalaureate programs in the future.

“If baccalaureate degrees on community colleges become acceptable, there are other fields where Camden County might be interested, particularly in allied health degree completion,” he said.

As for the pushback from four-year colleges and universities, Yannuzzi said, “They are sincere in wanting their institution to succeed, and they are sincere also in their belief that they provide a good program for their students that want that degree, but I think some of them don’t realize what the community colleges can do.”

Centenary College

The private school in Warren County voted against the Passaic and Union proposals at a Dec. 9 meeting of the Academic Issues Committee of the New Jersey Presidents’ Council, conducted by conference call.

Eastwick College

The North Jersey for-profit school voted in favor of the Passaic and Union proposals at a Dec. 9 meeting of the Academic Issues Committee of the New Jersey Presidents’ Council, conducted by conference call.

The school offers bachelor’s degrees, associate’s degrees, certificates, and diplomas; several are in nursing and related health fields.

Essex County College

Essex County’s community college voted in favor of the Passaic and Union proposals at a Dec. 9 meeting of the Academic Issues Committee of the New Jersey Presidents’ Council, conducted by conference call.

Felician University

The Catholic private school in Bergen County voted against the Passaic and Union proposals at a Dec. 9 meeting of the Academic Issues Committee of the New Jersey Presidents’ Council, conducted by conference call.

Kean University

Kean University abstained from voting at a Dec. 9 meeting of the Academic Issues Committee of the New Jersey Presidents’ Council, conducted by conference call.

“We’re taking more of a middle road,” said Stephen A. Kubow, Kean’s acting associate vice president in charge of the university’s branch campus partnership with Ocean County College.

Kean and Ocean are working to develop a four-year nursing bachelor’s degree program that would be a compromise between the community college proposal and traditional four-year programs, Kubow said.

“We’re still waiting to either get state blessing or this other scenario to play out, which right now it seems like that’s going to take a while. I don’t think there’s going to be an easy resolution to that one,” he said.

Kean University, which has nursing programs, is based in Union County, just a few miles from Union County College. Kubow noted the need for diplomacy as the Passaic and Union proposals move forward.

“It’s very tough, and that’s why Kean hasn’t really taken a formal position. We are very dependent on transfer students, we don’t want to slight our partners,” he said.

Middlesex County College

Middlesex County’s community college voted in favor of the Passaic and Union proposals at a Dec. 9 meeting of the Academic Issues Committee of the New Jersey Presidents’ Council, conducted by conference call.

Montclair State University

The four-year public school in Essex County voted against the Passaic and Union proposals at a Dec. 9 meeting of the Academic Issues Committee of the New Jersey Presidents’ Council, conducted by conference call.

Montclair State has a partnership with Seton Hall University for a five-year nursing program. Under that program, biology students can receive a bachelor of science degree from Montclair State and a master of science in nursing degree from Seton Hall.

New Jersey City University

The Hudson County four-year public university voted against the Passaic and Union proposals at a Dec. 9 meeting of the Academic Issues Committee of the New Jersey Presidents’ Council, conducted by conference call.

New Jersey Institute of Technology

The Newark-based school voted against the Passaic and Union proposals at a Dec. 9 meeting of the Academic Issues Committee of the New Jersey Presidents’ Council, conducted by conference call.

One of just three public research universities in the state — the others are Rutgers and Rowan — NJIT did not, however, send a formal letter opposing the proposals during a 30-day comment period.

Rowan College at Burlington County

Paul Drayton, the president of the Burlington County community college, said he supports the Union and Passaic proposals and will vote in favor them at the Jan. 25 New Jersey Presidents’ Council meeting.

“The community colleges can offer these degree programs with certainly, I believe, the same level of excellence at a substantially reduced cost, and that benefits students and parents,” he said. “I really believe it’s that simple. It really comes down to it’s another way to make higher education more affordable.”

Drayton said he is not currently considering baccalaureate programs but could in the future.

“At this point, we are not … I would say that we are certainly looking at it down the future,” he said, “but we have no immediate plans to offer a four-year degree program on our campus.”

Rowan College at Gloucester County

Frederick Keating, the president of the Gloucester County community college, demurred from taking a stance when asked in an interview. He has not taken a public stance.

Keating also chairs a state panel examining issues of college affordability, which will release a report with recommendations later this year. RCGC is also affiliated with nearby Rowan University.

“I do believe, in my own position and as chair, that we should aggressively look at expanding the role of county community colleges in New Jersey,” he said.

“I do believe that expanding that role, that one of the options might be the considering of the bachelor’s degree, but that needs to be vetted and studied more clearly in the commission before we could make any kind of public statement.”

Rowan University

The public four-year research university voted against the Passaic and Union proposals at a Dec. 9 meeting of the Academic Issues Committee of the New Jersey Presidents’ Council, conducted by conference call. It also sent letters opposing the proposals during a 30-day comment period.

Ali A. Houshmand, the president of Rowan University, questioned how the community colleges would hire doctorally trained nursing faculty at lower salaries than the four-year schools can offer.

“If you allow county college to offer a degree program, they cannot afford to hire the faculty, and therefore they maybe have to hire less-qualified faculty, and the country would suffer,” he said.

Houshmand said he is worried about quality, not competition. He also questioned whether offering these two specific programs would begin to open the door to other baccalaureate programs at community colleges in New Jersey.

“The notion that people say it’s going to be just these two programs, that’s just the beginning,” he said. “It’s going to open up a whole unnecessary debate that in my opinion is going to ultimately undermine the integrity of higher education as we define it in this country.”

Rutgers University

Rutgers University abstained abstained from voting at a Dec. 9 meeting of the Academic Issues Committee of the New Jersey Presidents’ Council, conducted by conference call.

Rutgers is staying out of the fight, said Pete McDonough, the university’s senior vice president for external affairs.

“We don’t have unanimity among our leadership in the chancellors, and so we’re just not taking a position at all,” said McDonough, whose role includes oversight of the university’s lobbying in Trenton.

Stockton University

The four-year school in Galloway voted against the Passaic and Union proposals at a Dec. 9 meeting of the Academic Issues Committee of the New Jersey Presidents’ Council, conducted by conference call. It also sent letters opposing the proposals during a 30-day comment period.

Harvey Kesselman, the president of Stockton University, said his school would like to grow its nursing program but struggles to find qualified faculty members.

Adding two new programs would add further stress to that, he said.

“There’s just not enough doctorally prepared nursing faculty available, and even the four-year institutions have to go into almost bidding wars to attract doctorally prepared faculty,” Kesselman said. “And the supply of them, I think, is not at the point where we can increase the number of baccalaureate degree programs.”

Kesselman also questioned whether the community colleges had exhausted all the possible two-year programs they could offer, while leaving bachelor’s degrees to four-year schools.

“There’s a reason why higher education was established in the manner that it was,” Kesselman said, noting “we have a sectorized system of higher education in New Jersey.”

“For a two-year school to offer four-year degrees, even the language of that suggests that it doesn’t match,” he said.

The College of New Jersey

The Ewing-based public school voted against the Passaic and Union proposals at a Dec. 9 meeting of the Academic Issues Committee of the New Jersey Presidents’ Council, conducted by conference call. During a 30-day comment period, TCNJ sent letters objecting to the programs on the basis of excessive expense and unnecessary duplication of programs.

Dave Muha, a spokesman for the school, said TCNJ has been expanding its RN-to-BSN programs, growing enrollment. It offered on-site programs at two hospitals in 2012, and now offers them at four.

“Four-year colleges already offer the upper-level courses necessary for the degree and we have the faculty to teach them,” Muha wrote in an email.

Of the community college proposal, he wrote: “These schools would need to create the courses and hire the faculty. This would come at a time when there is already a shortage of nursing faculty, nationally, so it would put further strain on an already limited resource pool.”

Thomas Edison State University

The adult-focused four-year public school sent letters opposing the Passaic and Union proposals during a 30-day comment period.

George A. Pruitt, the president of Thomas Edison, said his school offers one of the largest RN-to-BSN programs in the state and also has a master’s degree program and a new doctorate of nursing practice.

Allowing Union and Passaic to confer bachelor’s degrees in nursing, Pruitt said, would begin to weaken the sector-based higher education system in the state.

“One of the strengths of New Jersey is that we’ve had differentiated missions,” he said.

“Particularly public institutions that have public resources, we have not tried to be all things to all people.”

Pruitt said he will not be able to attend the Jan. 25 meeting of the New Jersey Presidents’ Council, meaning he will be unable to vote in opposition of the proposals. Still, he said, he had made his position clear to the schools.

“We need good community colleges that are focused on the traditional, historic mission of the community colleges. We don’t think it’s good public policy for community colleges to now become baccalaureate institutions,” Pruitt said. “There is no need for that.”

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