Community Colleges Mark 100th, CCC 35th Anniversaries


By President Dr. Kenneth Ender

America’s community colleges and your local community college are celebrating milestones this year. Community colleges – the largest sector in higher education nationally - are observing 100 years of service. And Cumberland County College will celebrate its 35th anniversary on Oct. 17.

One hundred years ago, community colleges began as junior colleges with the narrow purpose of providing the first two years of a traditional college education. They have evolved into comprehensive centers of higher education throughout the communities of America.

Today, community colleges focus on pre-baccalaureate education, continuing and professional education, customized training for businesses and workforce development. Throughout the nation, community colleges are hubs of educational, social and cultural enlightenment.

Every year more than 10 million Americans participate in programs offered by the nation’s 1,132 community colleges. This is nearly half of all the freshmen and sophomore college students in the country. About 2,700 students attend Cumberland during the fall and spring semesters.

Community colleges are a uniquely American innovation in education. In most countries, America included, higher education is often reserved for the elite – those whose families have academic backgrounds and/or those who can afford the price of entry.

The community college rationale is different. Its premise is the same as the premise that supports all great democratic institutions – that everyone should have the opportunity to go as far as their talents and means will take them. Access and affordability are the basic tenets of community college education.

When Cumberland County College opened in 1966, a college education became accessible to any county resident who wished to pursue it: those who couldn’t afford to attend a four-year college; those who spent more time in high school thinking about Richie Allen than Shakespeare; those with family responsibilities. All gained the chance to find out what more they could make of themselves. Talent development is the hallmark of a community college education.

Locally and throughout the nation, the doors of community colleges are open to anyone who has a desire to succeed. But make no mistake: If you don’t work hard and dedicate yourself to learning, you will not succeed at a community college any more than you will at a four-year college or university.

Cumberland and community colleges throughout the nation have open-door admission policies. But community colleges, including Cumberland, are very selective when it comes to issuing degrees, certificates and other earned credentials.

In addition to open admissions, community colleges provide opportunity because their tuition is very reasonable and their immediate service area is the community in which they reside. CCC hasn’t raised tuition for the past four years. It’s remained steady at $70 per credit, which is very reasonable compared to the tuition at four-year colleges. And CCC is a neighborhood college, so students can live at home and hold a job while attending.

Since they are local, community colleges can respond to local needs. For example, Cumberland County is growing, and so is construction in the area. To answer the local need for supervisors for this construction, the college has implemented the Construction Supervision program. Like most community colleges, CCC offers customized training programs for area companies of all sizes, on campus and at their businesses.

Community colleges have been leaders in serving non-traditional students through a variety of programs. CCC conducts an ESL (English as a Second Language) program for students who relocate here from other countries. In fact, even though most CCC students come from the county, our 2001 graduating class had in its ranks students from Holland, Poland, Mexico, Columbia, Greece, Haiti, Italy, Russia, Venezuala, India, Pakistan, Germany and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

Similarly, while most of the college’s faculty and staff live in the county or the region, CCC is a member of the New Jersey Virtual Community College Consortium, which provides online courses taught by professors of the 19 community colleges in New Jersey. In fact, some colleges in the consortium offer an entire associate’s degree online.

Community colleges also serve as leaders in economic development. CCC helped to initiate the School Counts! program, which provides incentives for high school students to learn good workforce literacy habits while earning scholarships to attend CCC. The college has been instrumental in organizing the Business/Education Alliance of Cumberland County. Yet another example of the college’s leadership role in economic development: CCC is the authorized Cisco Systems Network Academy in southern New Jersey.

Community colleges reflect their communities’ populations. Students may be 18, 30, 40 or older. Students may be displaced homemakers, small business owners, retirees, youth, downsized workers or traditional full-time students.

And they succeed. Millions of students have graduated from community colleges over the years. About 8,800 students have graduated from Cumberland since it opened.

Nationally, community college alumni include governors, astronauts, entertainers, film producers, sports stars, Pulitzer Prize-winning authors, fashion designers, actors and entrepreneurs.

Locally, CCC graduates work as nurses, teachers, social workers, engineers, police officers, administrators and landscapers. CCC alumni are respected executives, accountants, business owners, computer network specialists, counselors and public officials.

Community colleges have played a major role in America’s development during the past century. Community colleges are America’s colleges. Cumberland County College is this community’s college. We all should take pride in the accomplishments of these unique institutions. They are the jewels of our communities.