Warren Community College Officials are in the midst of their tour of Warren County to tout advancements and innovations at the school, including their selection as a pilot school for state Community College Opportunity Grants, and a new textbook subscription service. College President, Dr. William Austin, and his cohort visited the Liberty Township Committee Thursday night to pitch the improvements.
At the top of the list, Warren County was the only community college in Northwest New Jersey to merit selection by the Governor’s office to participate in the Community College Opportunity Grants pilot program. These grants, which made headlines when Governor Murphy announced them in September last year, aim to cover tuition expenses for qualifying students whose family’s adjusted gross income is less than 45,000 per year. The college credits their selection to participate in the pilot to their success in expanding access by twilighting remedial classes at the school, reducing the costs of course materials, and widening access to education.
“This is something to seriously consider because you’ll start your junior year of college debt free… and your credits will transfer,” said college president Will Austin. “So it’s really great for you, as an individual to take advantage of that program if you qualify.”
According to Austin, WCCC is the only college in New Jersey and one of only a few in the nation that have almost entirely eliminated remedial math and English courses from their curriculum. Traditional remedial courses are meant to solidify core skills in major subject areas to a predefined standard before students are eligible to take regular classes. Often, these courses do not offer credits or do not count toward completion of a course of study.
The college’s decision to eliminate such classes was informed by data collected from their own remedial classes, which show that remediating students has little effect on educational outcomes and often imposes a burden on students by requiring extra credits and lengthening time for degree completion.
“As we mainstreamed people we saw that it didn’t matter where their starting point was, in terms of that national test that just wasn’t a good indicator of what their competence and abilities were,” Dr. Austin told RNJ.
The remedial reform that Warren County has achieved already (enrollment in remedial classes is down from almost 700 students in 2007 to only 14 in Fall 2018) is practical also because of the opportunity for high school students to earn credits with the college for taking certain rigorous high school courses, called ‘dual enrollment courses.’ In some cases, the high school class can earn them a remedial course equivalency.
In 2017, according to college data, over half of the total Warren County high school population was enrolled in at least one dual credit course, which are all 100% subsidized by the county and the college. Student savings on fees and tuition totaled nearly $1.8 million over that spread.
WCCC also addressed the infamously high cost of course materials, particularly textbook costs which have risen at triple the rate of inflation of the past 40 years. Course materials are now provided by Cengage Unlimited, a subscription service that provides all necessary learning materials for a year at a $140 flat fee.
“There’s 20,000 volumes of different material that we’re available to choose from,” said Austin. It’s a great thing… It’s $140 for the year so if students graduate in May they can take that subscription with them to the next school.”
Township officials welcomed the good news from the college.
“The expense for educating young people today is extraordinary,” said Deputy Mayor of the township committee, Dan Grover. “So through the efforts of the college…where they can make college more affordable, it’s good for students, it’s good for their families that are supporting them”