VINELAND — Fifty-two years ago, Cumberland County College became the first community college in the state to open its own campus. On Friday, it marked another historic milestone.
The college’s Board of Trustees, in a unanimous vote, agreed to close the school in preparation for merging with Gloucester County’s college to become Rowan College of South Jersey.
“We are facing a very different future from our past. It takes a lot of courage to look at the facts and make decisions that are very different from what you’ve done in the past,” said Robert Clark, head of institutional research at Cumberland County College, after the board voted.
Clark led the merger for Cumberland County with the support of interim President Shelly O. Schneider and the board, which officially disbanded with Friday’s vote.
On Monday, Rowan College at Gloucester County will host a signing event to officially establish Rowan College of South Jersey.
Friday’s board meeting was followed by a celebration of the future that included state, local and federal officials, as well as many residents and alumni of the college.
“You are truly going to have something that’s going to represent South Jersey in an amazing way,” said U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, D-2nd.
The merger process began more than a year ago with hopes of stabilizing declining enrollment and decreasing revenue at Cumberland County College. Officials said it would create a corridor of educational opportunity along Route 55.
On Friday, Rowan University President Ali Houshmand said the partnership will have a positive impact on the lives and economy of South Jersey.
“Why not dream big, why not think that one day we can be a Silicon Valley?” Houshmand said. “The beauty of this partnership as far as I’m concerned is it enables us now to dream together.”
Outgoing Cumberland County College board Chairwoman Donna Perez thanked Schneider for leading the college through the process.
“She came at a time when this institution needed a hero, and as the saying goes, not all heroes wear capes,” Perez said.
On Thursday, the Middle States Commission of Higher Education, which issues accreditation for public and private institutions, approved the merger after a months-long, three-tiered process of review.
Rowan College of South Jersey will operate over two campuses at the Cumberland and Gloucester colleges. There will be one president, current Rowan College at Gloucester County President Frederick Keating, and one board of trustees.
The new college will be a part of the “3 plus 1” program that was already available at Rowan College at Gloucester County. The program allows students to attend community college for three years and finish their bachelor’s degree in one year at Rowan University.