Hudson County Community College’s Hudson Scholars Program Wins Prestigious 2024 Bellwether Legacy Award

March 4, 2024

The Hudson Scholars Program was recognized for driving student success and creating transformative outcomes for students from traditionally underrepresented groups.


March 4, 2024, Jersey City, NJ – HCCC’s Hudson Scholars Program was named the winner of the 2024 Bellwether Legacy Award, the highest honor bestowed upon community colleges by the Bellwether College Consortium. The Hudson Scholars Program was honored for its sustainable impact on student success, particularly those from traditionally underserved groups including Hispanic and African American students. The competition for this coveted award is intense. It is awarded only once every five years and all finalists are previous Bellwether Award winners. 

The nationally competitive Bellwether awards, presented by the Bellwether College Consortium, recognize trendsetting programs that address critical issues facing community colleges through applicable research and the promotion and replication of best practices. The Bellwether Awards were presented at the Community College Futures Assembly, held February 25-27 in San Antonio, Texas. 


The team from Hudson County Community College receives the Bellwether Legacy Award at the Community College Futures Assembly.

The team from Hudson County Community College receives the Bellwether Legacy Award at the Community College Futures Assembly.

The Legacy Award is the Bellwether College Consortium’s “most prestigious recognition of a past Bellwether award-winning community college with a remarkably enduring and successful program.  This award is presented to a college with sustained measurable achievements, such as high retention, graduation, transfer, retention, and job placement rates.” 

A major point of pride for the entire HCCC community, the Hudson Scholars Program exemplifies the sustained achievement in retention and graduation that the Bellwether Legacy Award stands for. Initially developed under the leadership of HCCC President Dr. Christopher Reber, the Hudson Scholars Program expands academic access and promotes student success through an innovative and holistic approach, combining proactive student support, financial stipends, high-impact educational experiences, and early academic intervention.

Over 2,500 students are served through Hudson Scholars to date, and the program has made an immediate and significant mark. Hudson Scholars are significantly more likely to stay in school and continue their studies. Over the last three years, the ratio of HCCC students receiving intensive support from a counselor has increased by 575%, meaning that the program is now reaching exponentially more students. 

Hudson Scholars students earned a credential within two years at three times the rate of students of the same academic profile not currently participating in the program. Hudson Scholars are effectively graduating within half the time of their historical peers, making the model a game-changer as time is often the enemy for community college students who juggle many competing priorities.  

HCCC serves one of the most diverse communities in the United States – 55% of students identify as Hispanic, and 88% self-identify as nonwhite. Furthermore, 80% of degree-seeking students qualify for federal financial aid. It is particularly encouraging that some of the program’s greatest impact has benefitted students from traditionally underserved and underrepresented backgrounds, such as Hispanic and African American students. 

The term-to-term persistence rates of Hispanic or Latino students in the Hudson Scholars Program increased by over 40%, while Black or African American students increased their likelihood of persisting by over 60%.  Additionally, the two-year completion rate for traditionally underrepresented Hudson Scholars represents a threefold increase compared to 2018-20. 

The program has also demonstrated that it is financially sustainable. While the program is resource-intensive – including the costs of personnel who are managing smaller caseloads, as well as stipends disbursed to students – Hudson Scholars’ capacity to increase a student’s likelihood of persisting not only covers these costs, but has actually resulted in increased net revenue and a return on investment (ROI) of approximately 30%. This financial sustainability means that the Hudson Scholars model is viable for replication by community colleges nationwide. 

On winning the prestigious award, Dr. Christopher Reber stated, “This is a proud moment for our entire HCCC family. We are ecstatic to be recognized with this tremendous honor. Best of all, the work that won us this national accolade is all about increasing retention, completion, and success for our inspirational students.” 

The Hudson Scholars Program previously won the 2023 National Bellwether Award for Instructional Programs and Services and was honored by The League for Innovation in the Community College with that organization’s 2021-22 Innovation of the Year Award. Adding the 2024 Bellwether Legacy Award to this list of accolades is an honor, but it is not the end game. HCCC will continue to build on the success of the Hudson Scholars Program by scaling it further to create more transformative outcomes, with adaptations being developed to support returning adult students, nursing students, culinary students, student parents, and others.

In addition to winning the Bellwether Legacy Award, HCCC was a finalist in two other award categories at the College Futures Assembly. The College’s “Transformational Learning Pathways Model for Justice-Involved Students” was a finalist in the Instructional Programs and Services category. Additionally, HCCC’s “Framework for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Scalable Best Practices” was a finalist in the Planning, Governance and Finance category.  

Additional Information about the Hudson Scholars Program is available at