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Camden delegation to talk higher ed at White House

Camden educational leaders are attending a White House summit on college access today, where they will announce new partnerships.

The heads of Rutgers-Camden, Camden County College, and the Camden public schools are attending a White House summit on college access today, where they will announce partnerships aimed at increasing the number of students in the City of Camden who pursue education after high school.

The announcement of the "Camden City College Access Network," which brings together the city schools, local colleges, and private corporations, is part of the White House College Opportunity Day of Action. The institutions in the network are setting targets in areas such as raising SAT and ACT scores, college enrollment, and applications for financial aid. The specific numbers have not yet been finalized.

"It's not just higher education, and it's not just the public schools, but a broad-based effort," Phoebe Haddon, the chancellor of Rutgers University's Camden campus, said by phone.

Rowan University, which has a campus in the city, will also participate in the program, which is based on a system that has been used in Michigan. Private partners could include Campbell Soup, Susquehanna Bank, Educational Testing Services, United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, and the YMCA of Camden and Burlington Counties, according to the proposal submitted to the White House. The schools will also look to reach out to non-profit organizations and faith-based community leaders.

"This is critical to not only what all of us are talking about in terms of college access, but also creating a workforce as students who are better educated K-12 may or may not decide to go to college but ought to have an opportunity to continue to learn and to be trained," Haddon said.

Rutgers-Camden has long had a college access mission, and the campus has a civic engagement focus that is a natural fit for this campaign, Haddon said.

Similarly, Camden County College President Raymond Yannuzzi said, his school has existing programs that will expand under this partnership. For example, the college will increase the number of high school students it brings to campus for tours, he said.

Yannuzzi said his goal is to reach students in Camden who could go to college but may see it as too expensive or otherwise out of reach. At Camden County College, additional focus will be postsecondary education that high school students may not know about: technical certificates, for example, or other vocational training.

"What we need to do more systematically is reach out to students in Camden and get every student to come to campus, take a placement test, fill out the financial aid forms," he said by phone.

Yannuzzi and Haddon said the White House event — which includes panel discussions and speeches by President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden — will draw attention to the issue of college access, which their schools have been working on.

The chancellor of Rutgers-Newark, Nancy Cantor, is also in Washington for the summit.

Paymon Rouhanifard, superintendent of the Camden City School District, said in an email that the new partnership between schools, colleges, and private groups would "align our efforts on college completion."

"Through greater coordination, we can increase the number of students who graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in college," he wrote.