Atlantic City is expecting a lot from the campus Stockton University is building at its Black Horse Pike entrance — an economic boost, transformation of a neighborhood and cultural enrichment.
And as university officials promised, it’s also opening an entrance into higher education for disadvantaged local students.
Some of those officials told The Press editorial board last March they were already hearing from city residents for whom travel to the university’s Pomona campus was difficult.
Just before Christmas, the university and the state announced a new program to provide financial and academic assistance to 50 students, with recruitment heavily focused in Atlantic City and Pleasantville. Students who are aging out of foster care will also be sought.
The program and campus will be a “gateway to opportunity for the young people who will be our region’s future leaders,” said Stockton President Harvey Kesselman.
The state’s Educational Opportunity Fund Board approved about $57,000 for the recruiting effort and to prepare the program to begin when the campus opens in the fall, with another $75,000 for its 2018-19 school year needs.
Stockton already has an EOF program for about 350 students on its main campus, and at 41 institutions statewide about 13,000 students participate. With median family income of just $27,179 for those students, the program often provides the only realistic path to higher education, supplementing aid available from the state’s Tuition Aid Grants and federal Pell Grants.
And it works: The six-year graduation rate for low-income EOF students is 55 percent, only slightly less than the national average graduation rate for all college students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
The Stockton expansion started helping Atlantic City residents last summer when 15 of them completed a training program and landed jobs with contractors building the campus and South Jersey Gas headquarters. The free program was sponsored by Joseph Jingoli & Son and Atlantic City Development Corp. and administered by Friends in Action. A second Training to Hire program led to jobs working on the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City project.
This is all good.
We’re confident many on the island and nearby will join thousands of students from elsewhere in seeing Stockton’s Atlantic City campus as a way to better themselves and their lives.
The community should be reassured that this outreach effort is helping those who stand to benefit the most get in on the ground floor.