MAYS LANDING— The huge red logo on the front of the building makes it clear: Rutgers University has arrived in Atlantic County.
Workers from Signal Sign Co. in Livingston, Essex County, on Thursday hung the bright red letters on the front of the $7.5 million building, which has been under construction for most of the past year on about a half-acre of land on Atlantic Cape Community College’s main campus. Classes will begin there Sept. 4.
The building marks the first time Rutgers has built its own building on a community college campus. It also marks the formal arrival of a second four-year college to the county, joining Richard Stockton College in Galloway Township.
The Rutgers Lifelong Learning Center will be a continuing studies and degree completion center. That means students will first complete their associate degrees at Atlantic Cape or another community college, or earn at least 60 credits from another college. They will then transfer as juniors to the Rutgers site for their final two years to earn a bachelor’s degree.
“The partnership provides a greater incentive for Atlantic Cape students to continue their higher education goals at a highly regarded senior institution while remaining close to home,” said Art Wexler, Atlantic Cape vice president of academic affairs.
The site will offer 10 undergraduate degrees and three graduate degree programs. Starting in January, a graduate certificate program for teachers will be offered in gifted education. Tuition for full-time students will be $10,356 plus $1,997 in fees.
Rutgers has offered courses at Atlantic Cape since 2006-07, but they have been housed in a temporary gray trailer the staff and students have outgrown.
“We’re just so excited to have bathrooms in the building,” joked Barbara Fiorella, associate vice president for degree completion and off-campus programs at Rutgers, noting that staff and students in the trailer had to go next door to the Atlantic Cape gym to use the facilities.
The new building has far more than nice bathrooms. There is an open reception foyer, conference room and student lounge that overlooks the woods and athletic fields. The two-story, 22,000-square-foot building has 12 classrooms and a 24-seat computer lab.
About 400 students can fill the classrooms during a typical class session, and the structure can accommodate about 1,000 students for day and evening sessions. It was also designed to be easily doubled in size as enrollment grows. About 300 students are anticipated for the fall, but both Atlantic Cape and Rutgers will be promoting the new site, and they expect enrollment to grow. Some local students who currently attend Rutgers-Camden may also be able to take courses closer to home.
Frankie Williams, 27, of Mays Landing, graduated from Atlantic Cape in 2009 and Rutgers at Atlantic Cape in May with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. He said he looked at several colleges, but the Rutgers program accommodated his full-time work schedule and he liked that he could get a Rutgers degree close to home. He is currently applying to the State Police, taking master’s degree courses at Stockton and considering law school.
“That old building was cramped,” he said. “But the tools were there. They got the job done.”
Susan Rivenbark, of Hammonton, and her daughter, Ashley, both graduated from Atlantic Cape in May and will attend Rutgers this fall. Susan said they remember looking at the empty Rutgers site at graduation and worrying that the new campus would not be ready.
“The other option was commute to Camden or take courses online,” Susan said. “I really didn’t want to drive to Camden. I’m really glad it’s finished.”
She said she and her daughter have always wanted to attend Rutgers, and it was an easy transition from Atlantic Cape.
Robert McGinn, construction agent for Rutgers, said it was a push to complete the building in nine months, but they succeeded.
“It’s like delivering a baby,” he joked. “But the building is beautiful. It’s like going from an outhouse to a penthouse.”
A formal dedication is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sept. 28.
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