Cumberland County College officials rowan merger

Rowan College at Gloucester County President Frederick Keating, left, Cumberland County College interim President Shelly Schneider and Robert Clark, merger liaison for Cumberland County, discuss a merger between the two South Jersey campuses in 2018.

VINELAND — Cumberland County College expects to have a new name by next month as the school is awaiting approval of a merger with Rowan College at Gloucester County.

“We’re in the last lap here, and hopefully it all goes well,” said Cumberland County Freeholder Director Joe Derella.

On June 28, the Board of Trustees will hold a special meeting and vote to officially close Cumberland County College and the campus will become part of the new Rowan College of South Jersey.

The day prior, the Middle States Commission of Higher Education, which issues accreditation for public and private institutions, is expected to approve the merger, said Robert Clark, head of institutional research at Cumberland County College.

Clark said the application for merger from Cumberland and Rowan College at Gloucester County was submitted Nov. 5 and went through a three-tiered process of review.

“We’ve been in touch with the commission all the way through,” Clark said. “Everything is looking good, so we don’t anticipate any problems.”

If approved, the new 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 membership of the new board is determined by state statute and will have eight Gloucester County representatives and five Cumberland representatives. The current Cumberland County board has 10 members.

Clark said the freeholders from each county will vet and approve candidates to fill the open seats. Those seats will likely be filled at respective freeholder meetings next week.

Derella said the freeholder board has made education in the county a top initiative since 2013. He said it reduces unemployment, keeps families together, creates healthier individuals and reduces crime.

The partnership with Rowan opens up opportunities to Cumberland County residents for expanding education, he said.

“Rowan is now becoming recognized nationally as one of the up-and-coming research universities, which is a huge opportunity for them as well as anyone who could tie themselves to them,” Derella said. “Obviously, with the push in the state of New Jersey to try to consolidate and find ways to bring communities and entities together and share costs, but also share in tremendous benefits, we’re taking a huge step in that direction.”

Clark said that with the merger, there will be no layoffs and the 10 unions between the two existing colleges have signed a one-year extension of their labor contracts, which expire this year, as well as a memorandum of agreement to keep staff at the current level for the next two years.

He said there may be some attrition, “but that’s something that is ongoing anyway.”

Athletics programs at each school will still operate separately, said Keith Gorman, head baseball coach and director of athletics and student life at Cumberland County College. Cumberland defeated Rowan College at Gloucester County 11-7 on May 29 in Greeneville, Tennessee, in the NJCAA D-III championship game. It was the first national championship in school history.

Cumberland will compete under the name Rowan College of South Jersey Cumberland Dukes, while Rowan will compete under the name Rowan College of South Jersey Gloucester Roadrunners.

Cumberland County officials have said the merger will help keep the community college from closing as it faces financial hardships due to declining enrollment.

Over a five-year period from 2012, Rowan College at Gloucester County was the only community college in the state to show an increase in enrollment. Clark said it was flat this year.

“They have been the best at resisting the decline in enrollment that Cumberland County, statewide and nationwide have been experiencing,” he said.

He said they are projecting relatively flat enrollment over the next three years at the new Rowan College of South Jersey.

“But understand that flat is good,” Clark said.

He said the merger will also allow Cumberland County to be a part of the “3 plus 1” program available at Rowan College of Gloucester County.

“Students will be able to pay community college tuition for three years and university tuition for one year and complete their baccalaureate degree for less than $30,000,” Clark said.

He said the merger also will not affect any existing dual-enrollment or Early College High School agreements in which Cumberland County College participates.