Growing to serve the educational needs of our communities
In 1965, a small community college was founded to offer affordable and convenient education services for students in the Bergen County region. Three years later, the first classes were offered to a modest enrollment of 1,454 students.
Now, nearly 50 years later, Bergen Community College (BCC), an accredited two-year coeducational institution and the largest community college in New Jersey, is home to more than 16,000 students in degree programs as well as nearly 13,000 more in continuing and adult education programs.
“Community colleges enroll 61 percent of all undergraduate college students in New Jersey today,” said Dr. B. Kaye Walter, president of Bergen Community College. “We are a community resource providing the foundation for a career—or a four-year degree; a partner with local employers delivering solutions to enhance our region’s economy; and a center of excellence creating cultural and civic initiatives that bring thousands of non-students to our locations each year.” Throughout the last five decades, the mission and vision of Bergen Community College have endured to: provide life-long learning opportunities for people of all ages and cultural backgrounds; respond to community needs through work force training and continuing education; and develop programs for employers. The college has expanded its main campus to include an expansive library, theater and student center. New buildings house additional classroom space, state-of-the-art technology and facilities for art, music and communications. Also, two off-sites in Hackensack and in Lyndhurst have extended the college’s reach to a wider student audience.
Planning for the future
At the start of the 2013-14 academic year, the college implemented its five-year strategic plan, which focuses on four themes: 1) student success and excellence; 2) faculty and staff success and excellence; 3) commitment to Bergen County; 4) and institution building.
The goals include enhancing and expanding programs to serve education and workforce development needs of Bergen County and increasing professional development opportunities for employees.
Here are some of the highlights of the strategic plan overview:
- Student engineering interns were hired as part of a $3.8 million federal grant secured by Bergen Community College to work with members of division of science, math and technology faculty to develop a five-foot tall wind turbine capable of generating 225 watts of electricity (at 20 mile per hour winds). The project remains one of many science, technology, engineering and math-related efforts by the college to increase enrollment in the fields and prepare students for careers in the growing employment sector.
- The college continued to prove its standing as the state’s “most social” community college, amassing nearly 15,000 followers on Facebook. Joined by recent acquisitions to its social profile, including Twitter and Instagram, the college’s pages have consistently received high marks from students for responsiveness and engagement.
- BCC maintains more than 40 articulation agreements with four-year schools, including a newly launched agreement with Fairleigh Dickinson University called the BCC-FDU Scholars Program. That agreement remains unique in that FDU will offer participating students a 40 percent tuition reduction and also features the creation and management of a dedicated FDU office at Bergen Community College’s main campus in Paramus.
- Two high-flying programs have been cleared for liftoff: aviation administration and aircraft operations. Students can enroll in the associate in science programs that utilizes the College’s Emil Buehler Trust Aviation Center, which includes helicopter and airplane flight simulators. Courses include introduction to aeronautics and aviation safety. Grants totaling $2 million from the Emil Buehler Trust fund the center and the program.
The unique program enables Bergen Community students earning an associate of science in professional studies (aviation administration) or natural sciences (aircraft operations) to transfer into the Daytona Beach, Florida-based Embry-Riddle’s Bachelor of Science program in aviation business administration.
A ‘Transformational Experience’
In an effort to further expand its global reach, Bergen Community College has joined a nationwide initiative spearheaded by the Institute of International Education (IIE) to double the number of U.S. students studying abroad by 2019, which marks the 100th year of the IIE’s founding.
“Study abroad is a transformational experience,” said Amparo Codding, the college’s dean of arts, humanities and wellness, and the person in charge of coordinating the school’s study abroad program. “In addition to the academic accomplishments, students come back with a very strong sense of self. They come back with a whole new view of the world, wanting to travel more, learn more, see more and do more.”
Bergen Community remains one of less than a dozen community/county colleges to make the commitment to the IIE. Typically, six Bergen Community students leave the United States each semester to study at institutions across the world, including Spain, Argentina, China, Italy, Japan and Morocco.
Partnering with area high schools
Bergen Community College is committed to its core values, including innovation, student success and academic excellence. This commitment is evidenced by the college’s dual enrollment program which affords area high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to get a jump-start on their college careers.
During the 2013-14 academic year, 752 Bergen County high school juniors and seniors from 27 public school districts participated in the program to earn college credits without having to leave their high school campuses—a 38 percent increase from the previous academic year.
The program represents the college’s involvement in what has become a national trend. The National Center for Educational Statistics recently found more than two million students engaged in similar programs at two and four-year schools across the United States.
In order to lead a dual enrolled class, high school teachers must hold a master’s degree in the subject taught and adhere to college-level curriculum standards set by college officials. David Eichenholtz, Ed.D., associate dean of college/high school partnerships, oversees the program.
“If college credits are awarded, these need to be college-level classes,” Eichenholtz said. “We have a responsibility to make sure the instruction and learning level match the rigor set for students enrolled in an associate degree program at Bergen.”
Classes offered as part of the program span traditional college-level general education courses such as English Composition I, Introduction to Chemistry and General Psychology that transfer to most colleges and universities. Some schools even offer career-specific classes like Drafting I and Introduction to Electronics Technology I.
To enroll in courses, students pay half of the standard in-county tuition rate at the College, which contributes to the value of the program. Once they successfully fulfill the course requirements, their college transcript will include credits in the classes certified by Bergen.
“From any perspective you look at this, it’s a home run,” Eichenholtz said. “Students and their parents can save money on their future college tuition bills, students receive a better high school experience by being challenged with college-level work, students improve their chances of graduating from college and, suddenly, the student receives credits from their local college and they’re ahead of the curve before they’re ever a ‘freshman’.”
New Health Professions Center
Hailed as a “healthy” start, Bergen Community College last year broke ground on the $26 million Health Professions Integrated Teaching Center at the school’s main campus in Paramus. The building represents the college’s capital improvement project as part of the $750 million Building our Future Bond Act, approved by New Jersey voters in the November 2012 elections. All bond act projects must expand a school’s academic capacity and have a direct impact on student instruction.
Construction on the three-story, 65,000 square-foot facility is expected to take two years.
“The Health Professions Integrated Teaching Center may very well become the ‘crown jewel’ building for what many people refer to as the ‘crown jewel’ programs at the college–of course, our health professions programs,” said E. Carter Corriston, Chair of Bergen Community’s Board of Trustees. “Students in these programs have long-benefited from the quality instruction provided by the college’s renowned faculty; they will soon have a facility that reflects the excellence of the programs they lead and teach in.”
Currently, more than 1,000 students enroll in health professions programs such as dental hygiene, radiography and nursing at Bergen. The college offers nine degree and certificate programs and nine non-credit certificate programs as part of its division of health professions.
President Walter said the center will provide new opportunities for those students, preparing them for entry into the occupational sector with the highest projected net job growth of any field according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Today not only represents part of building a foundation for this structure—but building the foundation for a healthier Bergen County,” Walter said. “As has been the case for the last 45 years, throughout Bergen County, it will be our graduates who perform the ultrasounds on future mothers; our graduates who tend to us in the emergency room; and our graduates who help keep our teeth looking like the smiles we see in People magazine.”
While health professions programs have always proven popular at Bergen Community, the center will allow the college to offer new amenities, technologies and community resources to meet the country’s evolving healthcare industry. In total, the center will include 26 classrooms and laboratories, including medial simulation and computer labs.
Additionally, the center will feature a ground-floor dental hygiene clinic, a laboratory for students as they work toward their associate in applied science degrees. The clinic offers low-cost preventive oral health care for the community and has hosted free oral cancer screenings and prophylaxis for children.
The center will become the first freestanding building constructed at Bergen Community College since West Hall was completed in 2007. RSC Architects, of Cliffside Park, designed the center.
Workforce Development Keeps on Trucking
In January, Bergen Community College and Jersey Tractor Trailer Training officials announced the establishment of a workforce development initiative that will enable local residents to earn both a Commercial Driver License (CDL) and a General Education Diploma (GED) as part of the joint program offered by the organizations.
“This is about developing the economy in our region,” said President Walter. “The members of our communities are our partners in doing that.”
The program offered as part of the college’s Division of Continuing Education, Corporate and Public Sector Training, features six weeks (155 hours–80 CDL hours/75 GED hours) of classroom instruction that will prepare students for the state’s CDL assessment and GED exam. Jersey Tractor Trailer will administrate all facets of the CDL curriculum, while the college will oversee the GED component. The State of New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development has accepted the program for its eligible training provider list.
Classes are offered at the college’s Lyndhurst location and Jersey Tractor Trailer Training’s Rutherford facility.
Jersey Tractor Trailer Training remains one of the oldest CDL programs in New Jersey, responsible for training more than 7,000 men and women in its 27-year history.
Bergen continues to recognize the need for diverse educational opportunities. The Philip Ciarco Jr. Learning Center provides non-credit education and counseling services including GED and adult ESL courses. It also offers college credit courses, flexible start accelerated credit courses, American language program courses, employment preparation, job training, and a wide variety of other general education, certificate and degree classes.
A satellite site, Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands, offers credit bearing courses for all degree programs and a variety of workforce development programs at its facility in Lyndhurst. The college also offers selected classes at the Law and Public Safety Institute in Mahwah and Fort Lee High School in Fort Lee.
“As we continue to grow and provide new resources—including the Health Professions Integrated Teaching Center—we enhance our ability to educate and serve the community,” said President Walter.