Rutgers University is trying to get closer to potential students in its home state.

Officials from the university went to Mays Landing, N.J., on Friday to open a Rutgers-run building at Atlantic Cape Community College. The building has classroom and office space for students on the community college campus who are taking Rutgers courses.

The $7.5 million structure is the first the university has opened on a community college campus, though the school has a relationship with two other community colleges and expects to establish a physical presence on their campuses as well.

Students who take Rutgers classes at the sites are taught by university professors. They have to meet the same admission requirements as students enrolling at Rutgers' campus in New Brunswick and pay the same tuition - more than $10,000 per year for a full-time student.

New university president Robert Barchi said this month that remote-learning centers and online courses are ways Rutgers can reach more New Jersey residents without straining its existing campuses, especially New Brunswick, where there's little room for more students.

"This is a way for us to serve more citizens of New Jersey," said David Finegold, Rutgers' senior vice president for lifelong learning and strategic growth.

This semester, 1,800 students are enrolled in the off-site classes, he said. The programs are tailored to nontraditional students - those not in the 18- to 22-year-old group that dominates on-campus undergraduate programs.

The university started sending faculty in 1998 to the Freehold campus of Brookdale Community College, one of several parts of the state that were found to be underserved by higher education. Since then, it has added similar programs at Atlantic Cape and Raritan Valley Community Colleges - sites within range of Rutgers' main campus and its campuses in Newark and Camden.

The university is working out the details of sending faculty to the Morris and Mercer county colleges beginning next fall, Finegold said.

Rutgers offers degree programs at the community colleges. Students can take general-education classes through the community colleges, where tuition is lower, then get their degrees from Rutgers' courses offered on campus. Some students can be admitted to the community college and Rutgers at the same time.

Rutgers also offers specialized classes at some community colleges. For instance, it plans to offer a certificate in teaching gifted children starting next year. Government-related Rutgers programs could be introduced at Mercer County College's Trenton campus, Finegold said.