Colleges and universities across the country are facing a number of challenges. With decreasing numbers of high school graduates and with those who are enrolled stopping out for personal and family reasons, tuition revenue has both decreased and become unpredictable. Stagnant or declining public support, increasing health care costs, aging facilities in need of repair, soaring technology costs, and consumers wanting all of the bells and whistles also add to the financial pressures of public higher education. Cumberland County College is not immune to these challenges. We are tackling them through innovation and by adapting to the times.
We know that higher education is the gateway to economic independence and to enhancing the economic vitality of the region. A high school diploma is simply not sufficient in the current economy. Our college offers different and affordable pathways for economic mobility. Whether it is a full college degree or a certificate for career/technical employment or a job in manufacturing, having a credential helps individuals command a higher salary in the job market. As a college, we are committing ourselves to providing short-term programs and degrees that are relevant and aligned with the growing industries in our region and with the 4-year degree transfer options for students.
With our Early College High School model, we now offer reduced tuition for students to begin earning their college degree while still in high school. We started with traditional liberal arts programs and, in fall 2018, we will have programs for those students who enjoy working in the trades and with their hands. No matter one’s career choice, a college credential will open many doors.
We are also meeting our community at the businesses where they work offering before-work, lunchtime, and evening courses at different places of employment. With technology changing rapidly, workers are in need of periodic retraining to keep our local businesses competitive. Our workforce development team offers an increasing array of customized training and standard computer and technical trainings. With food manufacturing and advanced manufacturing growing in our area, we are aiming to increase the number of people qualified to fill those open and other positions in the County.
Our goal is to become a much more adaptive and agile college, meeting students where they are and evolving our approach to accommodate and teach them. Over the last 20 months, we have improved our enrollment by 13 percentage points. That is commitment to mission! It is opening doors for our community and moving the needle on both the percentage of our population that has a post-secondary credential and those achieving greater financial independence.
We have also increased the number and array of 4-year university partnerships that we have available for students to complete their bachelor’s degree. Going even beyond the traditional articulation agreement, nearly all of the four new university partners we signed on in the last year offer substantive tuition discounts for our students who transfer after graduating from Cumberland.
As we look forward, we realize that we are not alone. Most of higher education including our community college sector faces some daunting challenges. At Cumberland County College, our approach is to innovate, adapt, evolve, and to grow and advance our mission, while retaining the best of our traditions and identity. Our community partners, local businesses, and every day citizens have helped us succeed thus far and we are counting on you to continue to propel us forward.
Previously published on thedailyjournal.com on February 26, 2018.