CUNNINGHAM BILL TO ENABLE BACHELOR DEGREE PROGRAMS AT COUNTY COLLEGES ADVANCES

Senator Sandra Bolden Cunningham, D-Hudson, listens to testimony during the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee’s hearing on the FY 2011 Budget bills.

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Sandra B. Cunningham that would establish a process for a county college to offer a baccalaureate degree in the area of applied sciences was approved today by the Senate Higher Education Committee. Under the bill, the board of trustees of a county college may submit a proposal to the New Jersey Presidents’ Council for the establishment of a baccalaureate degree program in an applied sciences field in which a critical shortage of qualified labor exists, or is projected to exist, in the region.

“This legislation would radically change the face of higher education in New Jersey by enabling an affordable path to a bachelor’s degree at lower-tuition county colleges,” said Senator Cunningham (D-Hudson).  “Students would graduate with a diploma in a discipline in very high demand and embark on a successful career path that provides the necessary talent for the high tech industries our state attracts.  It makes sense for students, it makes sense for county colleges and it makes sense for New Jersey’s cutting edge industries and economic growth.”

Under the bill, S-2535, the New Jersey Presidents’ Council would be directed to review the proposal and notify the board of trustees of any deficiencies in writing, and the council would be required to provide the board of trustees with an opportunity to correct the deficiencies.  The Council would forward the proposal, with its recommendation for approval or disapproval of the proposal, to the Secretary of Higher Education and the secretary would be directed to provide the county college with a written determination on the approval or disapproval of the proposal.  The bill would provide that the establishment of a baccalaureate degree program by a county college be dependent upon the county college receiving accreditation for the program by the appropriate accrediting body.  A county college may offer no more than three baccalaureate degree programs through the bill’s provisions.

Seven years following the establishment of a baccalaureate degree program, the board of trustees of the county college would be required to submit a report to the secretary, the Governor, and to the Legislature on the implementation and impact of its baccalaureate program. The secretary would then make a recommendation to the Governor and to the Legislature on the advisability of continuing the program.

Approved 3-1, the bill next heads to the Senate floor for further consideration.