VINELAND – U.S. Senator Robert Menendez visited the Rowan College of South Jersey (RCSJ) Cumberland campus, on August 5, for an informal discussion with students and college administrators about his efforts to increase access to higher education by making college more affordable.
Menendez was joined at the event by New Jersey Senate President, Stephen Sweeney; Ali Houshmand, president of Rowan University; Frederick Keating, president of Rowan College of South Jersey; and several of the students whose stories are symbolic of the success of university partnerships.
“Your stories about how your lives have been changed are very powerful to hear,” Menendez told the students. “It is important to unlock the potential of each and every American to ultimately get a college education. It is a national imperative that we achieve that goal.”
Menendez is a co-sponsor of the America’s College Promise Act (ACPA) which is designed to make college more accessible for millions of low-income and non-traditional students.
In part, ACPA legislation aims to:
• Provide a federal match of $3 for every $1 invested by the state to waive community college tuition and fees for eligible students before other financial aid is applied.
• Ensure the full transfer of academic credits from a community college program to any in-state four-year institution or occupational training that leads to credentials in an in-demand industry.
• Establish a new grant program to provide pathways to success at minority serving institutions by covering a significant portion of tuition and fees for low-income students.
• Maintain and encourage increased state funding for higher education.
“Thank you for ensuring that our citizens can get an affordable education,” Houshmand told Menendez. “We need a national model of community colleges working together with senior institutions, utilizing existing infrastructure that has been paid for by taxpayers.”
During a brief discussion with Menendez prior to the public forum, Houshmand and Keating explained the innovative “3+1” partnership with Rowan University which allows students in select majors to attend RCSJ for three years at the community college tuition rate, and then complete the final year of their baccalaureate program at Rowan University at the university rate.
“I find the 3+1 concept to be extremely fascinating,” said Menendez, who stated he will take the idea back to Washington, D.C.
“Thank you for improving the lives of future generations,” Sweeney told Menendez. “Education influences everything and changes the quality of life for everyone.”
As students took turns sharing stories of how access to affordable education has positively impacted their lives, an overall theme occurred: support, opportunity, quality, choice.
“I was financially responsible for my education. Now I am debt-free at 22 years old because of the support I received from Rowan. I couldn’t be more thankful,” said Ashley Kulikowski, a psychology major enrolled in the RCSJ “3+1” program.
“Rowan College of South Jersey is the community college of the future,” said Keating. I am extremely honored to serve as RCSJ’s first president and to have the opportunity to meet with local, state and national leaders to discuss higher education and how to better serve the residents of our community. Thanks to close-working relationships and affiliations with area chambers of commerce, businesses and workforce development, students and employees have the chance to further enrich their educational goals. Rowan College of South Jersey is prepared to meet the needs of South Jersey students.”