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Preparing Our Workforce | Honors College | Achieving the Dream
Voluntary Framework of Accountability | Big Ideas
As President Obama puts an increasing emphasis on community colleges’ role in educating the nation and training the workforce, RVCC continues to demonstrate that it’s one of the best two-year institutions in the region. This year the College has been at the forefront in developing strategies to improve student success, creating new opportunities for academically advanced students and designing programs to meet the workforce needs of the region.
Following are some of the many examples of how RVCC is leading the way in offering educational opportunities for our students and the community.
Preparing Our Workforce
The Obama administration has recognized the significant role community colleges can play in preparing workers for the changing economic landscape. The administration has been advocating for several improvements in higher education, including expanding industry-academic partnerships, lifting barriers to higher education and creating career ladder opportunities. In response, the College’s commitment to workforce development has expanded dramatically over the past year.
In July of 2010, RVCC assumed responsibility for all post-secondary programs offered by the former Somerset County Technology Institute. The new RVCC@Bridgewater site provided a central location for all workforce programs. The College has actively sought out guidance from local industry to ensure that these programs are directly aligned with employer needs and employed DACUM processes, a well-proven, specialized curricular methodology designed to translate industry needs into clear educational competencies. This approach is well-aligned with the Obama administration’s desire for more industry-academic partnerships in the coming educational landscape.
One of the significant changes stemming from this process was the creation of certificate programs in multiple workforce programs. The certificate programs have been designed to be effective in providing students with the precise skills they need to enter the workforce in under a year and in establishing career ladders for graduates who wish to continue their education.
The College has also expanded its Health Information Technology (HIT) program with the assistance of a grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The goal is to bring the country’s medical information into the digital age. RVCC now has a myriad of options to train students of differing backgrounds to enter this field. The HIT programs have been designed to be career ladders and lead to industry recognized certificates.
RVCC @ Bridgewater has gotten off to an impressive start. During its first year Bridgewater had 3,700 registrations in a variety of courses, including the traditional technical career programs such as auto technology and welding. Enrollment has been equally strong in continuing education programs in computer technology, management and a range of skills-related courses such as solar installation, electrical and small business management. The cosmetology program is fully enrolled for the Fall 2011 Semester and 100% of spring graduates passed the NJ State Board of Cosmetology exam for licensure.
“RVCC@Bridgewater started strong and we look forward to the development of additional programs and career ladders in the technology and trade fields,” said Janet Perantoni, Dean of Continuing Education.
The Fall 2011 semester will mark the launch of RVCC’s Honors College—a new program designed to create a pathway for high-achieving students to enrich their academic experience and enhance their credentials for both college transfer and competitive employment markets. Twenty students are currently enrolled in the Honors College.
The seeds for the Honors College were planted in RVCC’s strategic plan, which places an emphasis on providing a high quality educational experience for students. While RVCC has always attracted high-achieving students and has offered selective honors courses, the College did not offer a comprehensive approach that provided these students with special support and a focused academic experience. The Honors College addresses these issues by requiring students to take 10 honors-level academic courses over two years as well as participate in various co-curricular activities and gain exposure to leadership opportunities. In all, these students will be provided with a well-rounded college experience that will prepare them for life after RVCC.
Students enrolled in the Honors College will be part of a select community of learners and will have various opportunities for academic, social and personal growth. Honors courses are small, seminar-style, have an interdisciplinary focus and afford students a closer working relationship with their professors.
The ultimate goal of the program is to increase the chances of these gradates continuing their education at highly selective, academically challenging four-year colleges and universities. RVCC is in the process of developing Honors College transfer relationships with outstanding four-year colleges that will increase students’ chances of admission and transfer scholarships. The College already has transfer agreements with more than 50 colleges and universities across the country, including Cornell University, The College of New Jersey, American University, NJIT, Rutgers University and Seton Hall University. By attending RVCC for the first two years of their undergraduate degree and then transferring to a four-year school, students can save anywhere from $20,000 to $100,000.
Achieving the Dream
Signifying a strong commitment to student success and completion, RVCC is one of 30 community colleges nationwide selected for the Achieving the Dream 2011 Cohort. This past spring RVCC began identifying strategies to improve student success; close achievement gaps; and increase retention, persistence and completion rates. RVCC is being joined in the three-year program by two other New Jersey community colleges: Cumberland County College and Passaic County Community College.
As an Achieving the Dream institution, RVCC will develop and implement research-based policies and practices based on quantitative and qualitative analyses of its institutional strengths, problem areas and achievement gaps. RVCC has committed to assessing the effectiveness of these policies and practices, institutionalizing the approaches that prove successful, and sharing the findings. Through Achieving the Dream, RVCC has the opportunity to learn from other Achieving the Dream institutions, and receive assistance from experienced practitioners in building a culture of evidence, using data to identify problems, setting priorities and measuring progress toward increasing student success.
“Closing achievement gaps and improving student outcomes is extremely difficult work. The ambitious commitment of Raritan Valley Community College is commendable,” said William Trueheart, president and CEO of Achieving the Dream.
Voluntary Framework of Accountability
This year RVCC was selected as one of 40 community colleges to pilot a new Voluntary Framework of Accountability (VFA) that is designed to redefine what “success” means for two-year institutions nationwide. The VFA represents the first national system to provide accurate data, operational transparency and the ability for colleges to benchmark student progress and completion data against peer institutions.
The VFA is being developed by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) in collaboration with the Association of Community College Trustees and the College Board with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Lumina Foundation for Education. Beginning in mid-January, the VFA pilot colleges tested a series of custom metrics that community college professionals developed over the past several months. The project fills what community college advocates have seen as a void in measures appropriate to the unique two-year college mission.
“The Obama administration and others are focused on greater numbers of student completions and demonstrable measures for how we gauge student success. VFA is the community college response that says, ‘We accept that challenge,’” said Walter G. Bumphus, president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).
Raritan Valley Community College has joined forces with New Jersey’s 18 other community colleges on the Big Ideas project—a coordinated effort to develop comprehensive, cost-effective solutions to issues facing all of the state’s two-year colleges.
“Community colleges are facing the challenges of slowing government aid and increasing enrollment,” said RVCC President Casey Crabill. “We recognize that there is strength in numbers. Working together we can identify strategies to increase efficiency and capacity.”
At a meeting in June, the presidents of the state’s community colleges identified the following Big Ideas to work on collaboratively and set a three-year implementation timeline:
1. Transforming developmental education
2. Aligning expectations between K-12 schools and community colleges
3. Creating student success data
4. Promoting adjunct faculty development
5. Expanding joint purchasing practices
6. Building academic consortia
7. Building alternative learning delivery systems
8. Using core student learning outcomes and common assessment tools in the top 10 highest enrollment general education courses
Innovative Learning | Faculty Profiles