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October 6, 2023
October 6, 2023, Jersey City, NJ – There are one million fewer students on college campuses than there were prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the causes can be debated, this decline is alarming because earning a college education is still the doorway to the American Dream for millions. The wage gap between college graduates and those with only a high school diploma recently reached a record high, and multiple sources report that, over the course of their careers, college graduates will earn significantly more on average than their counterparts with a high school education.
Schools like Hudson County Community College are working hard to reverse this downtrend and keep the dream of a college education within reach for all. The College’s credit enrollment for fall 2023 increased by nearly 3%, and enrollment of new HCCC students and those seeking short-term credentials has increased by double digits. At the same time, student retention and degree completion are also increasing. HCCC is addressing the issues and concerns of students head on and offering viable solutions.
There’s no question that the cost of a college education has soared over the years as tuition and housing have outpaced the rate of inflation. However, HCCC works hard to make college a viable option for students with an affordable in-county tuition rate of $155 per credit. This cost-effective tuition makes the dream of a college education a reality for Hudson County residents. The College offers financial aid funding to the largest proportion of students receiving Pell and Community College Opportunity grants in New Jersey.
Beyond direct financial aid for tuition, HCCC prides itself in fostering a culture of care that helps students address needs both inside and outside of the classroom. The Hudson Helps Resource Center (HHRC) offers a plethora of wrap-around services supporting students’ holistic needs. The College’s Career Closet provides students who can’t afford professional attire with new and lightly-used clothing so they don’t have to worry about having a suit for an interview or a first day of work. HCCC developed and implemented a Swipe Out Hunger "meal plan card" distributed through the HHRC to combat food insecurity and make sure that no students go hungry. The College was recently awarded an $80,000 grant from the Tepper Foundation and the New Jersey Council of County Colleges to participate in its Community to Opportunity: Building Community to Expand Opportunity initiative.
Many point out that college degrees don’t always translate into high-paying jobs, and that lucrative jobs in the trades don’t necessarily require a college degree. However, these careers also require extensive training and knowledge, and HCCC is meeting this need with myriad workforce development programs. Whether it’s courses in welding or the culinary arts, HCCC education and training lead to industry-recognized credentials that equip students with the skills they need to succeed in a wide range of careers.
HCCC is forging innovative partnerships with local businesses to combine classes with on-the-job training. The Holz Technik Academy Apprenticeship program, an innovative collaboration of HCCC and Eastern Millwork, Inc., offers students the opportunity to work as apprentices at EMI while earning their Associate of Science (A.S.) degree in Advanced Manufacturing from HCCC and a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Technical Studies from Thomas Edison State University (TESU). While working as apprentices, these students receive a salary and benefits such as paid vacations and holidays, health benefits, and a 401K. When these students complete the apprenticeship program, they will earn $70,000 at EMI. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy praised the program as the blueprint for New Jersey’s economic future.
This summer, HCCC hosted NJ Reentry’s inaugural Summer Training Institute, which provided comprehensive job training and industry-recognized credentials to more than 200 court-involved young adults. Participants took courses in construction management and forklift operation while earning OSHA-30 certification. Other credential-earning opportunities included information technology, culinary arts, and health care. Earlier this year, HCCC partnered with NJ Reentry to offer a three-month phlebotomy training program for court-involved individuals, the first of its kind in New Jersey.
HCCC also has its eye on the future with new programs in growing fields like the cannabis industry, data science, construction management, and a National Security Agency (NSA)-certified cybersecurity program. The College’s cutting edge programming and partnerships make HCCC an onramp to exciting, fulfilling and family-sustaining career pathways for students from all walks of life.
Some pundits view online certificates and courses as an alternative to the college environment. Rather than viewing online learning as a threat, HCCC embraces it as an opportunity to meet students where they are and make degree and certificate programs more accessible than ever before.
Six new fully online programs have been added over just the past six months, bringing the total to 16 fully online programs with five more programs in development. Through the Center for Online Learning, the College now offers over 120 online courses.
Online learning also helps tackle college affordability. No matter where students enrolled in HCCC online programs live, they can take advantage of the same in-county tuition rates as Hudson County residents, making online learning at HCCC a cost-effective option for all.
There are nearly 40 million Americans who started college and have some college credits but weren’t able to finish their college degree for various reasons. Many of these “stopped out” students would benefit from completing their degrees now if given the opportunity. That’s why HCCC is reengaging citizens to complete their degrees, working with organizations like Re Up and Jobs for the Future to provide scalable solutions that accommodate working adults who want to earn credentials that lead to career advancement and sustainable futures.
HCCC has designed and implemented innovative and award-winning programs addressing the barriers that prevent students from completing their degrees. The HCCC Hudson Scholars program, winner of the prestigious 2023 National Bellwether Award for Instructional Programs and Services, combines proactive academic advisement, financial stipends, high impact educational experiences, and early academic intervention to drive student success.
The program has increased student success across the board and has been especially impactful for students from traditionally underrepresented groups including Hispanic and African-American students. Hispanic and Latino participants in the program are 52% more likely to persist and 363% more likely to graduate in two years in comparison to students who are not in the program. Black and African-American participants are 80% more likely to persist and 275% more likely to graduate in two years. Hudson Scholars now serves nearly 2,000 students, and the College is expanding this best-practice model to all HCCC students.
HCCC is taking the lead in addressing the issues that are affecting nationwide college enrollment. According to HCCC President, Dr. Christopher Reber, “It’s not lost on us that we are located in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty. Lady Liberty is a powerful metaphor for our college's mission today. HCCC will continue to serve all who enter our doors by providing them with educational opportunities, empowerment, support and love to reach their full potential.” Hudson County Community College is turning the tide against the downward nationwide enrollment trend and ensuring that college – the onramp to the American Dream – is a viable option for all citizens, especially those from traditionally underrepresented and marginalized backgrounds.