By: Yolanda Rivas
2 min read February — Rowan College at Burlington County looks out for its students and has established several partnerships with the private sector to ensure a smooth transition from the classroom to the workplace. Still, shrinking birthrates on the East Coast present a challenge to remain competitive in the state, according to Michael A. Cioce, president of Rowan College at Burlington County.
What are the main qualities that distinguish Rowan College from other institutions in the region?
Access and affordability are built into the DNA of the institution. We have no direct competition within our county boundaries, but the state of New Jersey unfortunately has challenges. Many of our students have been recruited by Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware, among others, and it puts the responsibility on us to deliver a high-quality educational experience.
We have approximately 9,000 students in any given semester, which makes us a medium-sized institution. Despite that number, my cabinet, my deans, directors and I all know our students. You are not going to come here and just be a transaction, and that matters to students because they have options and alternatives. We have competitors encroaching on our front door. Online education has grown exponentially over the last 20 years, so students can go wherever they want and I think that value that the personal connection provides differentiates us from many larger institutions.
In tandem with that, we have linkages directly into our local workforce, which assists students in gaining entry into the workforce.
What are the college’s most in-demand programs and courses?
Anything related to the health sciences sector. Our nursing program has a waiting list, and demand greatly outpaces available seats. Part of that is that students know they are going to be employed upon graduation. Our partnership with Virtua Health System, one the region’s largest healthcare employers, is amazing. Our students are not going to graduate with us simply saying, “good luck.” Through our workforce development programs and partnerships, such as that with Virtua and other employers, our students are getting real on-the-ground training that allows them to cross seamlessly into a job. Many of our students are offered employment prior to graduation.
We partnered with an economic analytics firm to conduct an economic impact study that uncovered three prongs where this institution drives value to the area. First, obviously, is training the students locally. They are coming to our campus, living nearby, buying food at local restaurants and working here. Second, as an employer. We employ over a thousand people in any given year, probably more than that. We are not the size of Virtua, but we are not a Mom and Pop store. Third is alumni: students who trained here, stayed here, and are also going to be champions of this institution. That is sort of our hat trick that scores big for the region. The report determined that RCBC’s economic impact on the Burlington County regional economy is $504.9 million in a year.
What are the main challenges facing both Rowan College and the education system at large in South Jersey?
The birth rate has declined over the last 20 years and as a sector that is heavily reliant on high-school graduates, the enrollment curve is going to be challenging over the next couple of years. This is something that is larger than the college and the county, it is actually affecting the entire East Coast. As a community college, we enroll many adult students and we are not entirely reliant on that 12th-grade population. We have a higher percentage of adult learners than our peers, which gives us a little bit of a buffer, but the overall trend, is definitely going to be a challenge because as the main pool of students shrinks, there is going to be increased competition for them.
To learn more about our interviewee, visit:
Rowan College at Burlington County: https://www.rcbc.edu/