Two South Jersey community colleges merged Monday to create a regional community college.
Rowan College at Gloucester County and Cumberland County College formally joined forces, creating the first such community college in New Jersey. The new entity will be called Rowan College of South Jersey.
The colleges will maintain their campuses in Sewell and Vineland, jointly educating about 10,000 students — about 7,000 in Gloucester County and 3,000 in Cumberland County.
The merger mirrors a trend of smaller schools joining forces in the face of declining nationwide enrollment and growing financial pressures.
Those nationwide trend lines were “a factor in the decision to merge,” said Andrea Stanton, a spokesperson for the college. “By merging, we will have more credit and noncredit offerings to meet the needs of students in Southern New Jersey.”
Shortly after the new board of trustees met to seal the deal, officials gathered to mark the merger, hailing it as a win for South Jersey.
“I think we can run with anyone in the country right now,” said Frederick Keating, college president and formerly the president of Rowan College at Gloucester County. He underscored the resources now available to students at both schools, including a medical school and a well-regarded nursing program.
The Gloucester County college had seen its enrollment rise since its 2014 agreement with Rowan University, which gave the Gloucester students access to Rowan resources, the ability to complete a four-year Rowan degree on the Sewell campus, and other benefits. The Cumberland students will now reap those benefits as well.
Officials said the tuition for the new college — $152 per credit hour for students living in Gloucester and Cumberland Counties — would be the cheapest in New Jersey. Students who choose to pursue the “3+1 program," which allows them to pay for three years of cheaper county college tuition and just one year at the Rowan University rate, could earn a Rowan degree for about $30,000.
Josh Piddington, a vice president at the new college, said student costs were a driving factor for the merger.
“Higher education is kind of pricing people out these days. We are going to offer high-quality education that’s affordable," said Piddington.
Rowan College of South Jersey offers more than 120 degree and certificate programs.
New Jersey State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) said Monday that the Gloucester-Cumberland partnership would likely be replicated across the state and beyond.
“County colleges were always outstanding, but nothing ever gave it the credentials and credibility that it has now,” Sweeney said at an event marking the merger. “We’re going to have a medical school on the campus of this college.”
The colleges will keep their respective athletic programs, officials said. In fact, Rowan College at Gloucester County and Cumberland County College recently met on a national stage; their baseball teams faced off in the Division III baseball championship. Cumberland claimed that title in May.
Ali A. Houshmand, president of Rowan University, said the merged college will be mindful of both counties’ needs.
“Through this partnership, we’re not only creating access and affordability, but bringing education to these counties based on the needs of these counties,” Houshmand said.