Future college students concerned about being burdened with student loan debt for the next 20 years may find some relief in Rowan University’s new degree program.
Rowan announced a four-year bachelor’s degree program, set to begin in the fall 2016 semester, that is estimated to cost about $25,000. Students of Rowan-affiliated community colleges such as Rowan College at Burlington County (RCBC) and Rowan College at Gloucester County (RCGC) will be able to attend community college for three years and complete a fourth year on Rowan University’s campus for a full-fledged Rowan bachelor’s degree.
A major draw for future students will be the low tuition cost, which is about half the tuition of a current commuter student at Rowan, and a quarter of the cost of private institutions.
According to Vice President of University Relations Joe Cardona, the program, nicknamed the ‘3-plus-1,’ is intended to provide a pathway for students who may not be able to afford college otherwise.
The 3-plus-1 will formalize programs that have long-existed at Rowan in which a transfer student can obtain a Rowan degree after attending another school for three years.
“We see the national debt skyrocketing and students taking out loans,” Cardona says. “We want to make sure that students can go to school even if they can’t afford it.”
This degree will only be offered to current freshman and sophomore students at RCBC and RCGC, as well as incoming high school graduates who plan to attend these community colleges. A current Rowan freshman, for example, is not eligible to benefit from this program.
As of now, the 3-plus-1 will be offered to select degree programs that include nursing, psychology, liberal studies, and a radio/television/film program at RCGC and an undetermined science program at RCBC, which has more lab space available. Rowan plans to expand the program to other majors in the future.
Several former RCGC and Rowan students expressed concern for the quality of education in the 3-plus-1 in a Facebook post requesting student input on the matter. A primary concern of alumnus Kyle Glatz, 26, is that the community colleges would not be able to offer the same “rigorous courses” available at Rowan, and students “would have a rude awakening in terms of expected quality in their fourth year.”
Alumnus Jeffrey Thomas, 29, supports the program and would have liked to see more affordable education available when he attended college.
“It shouldn’t have to cost your life savings to get the education needed to become a [contributing member] of society,” Thomas says.
According to Cardona and an nj.com article on the program debut, professors teaching the third year of the 3-plus-1 at community colleges will be required to have a masters level education or higher. These professors will be evaluated in a process similar to a university adjunct professor, with more emphasis on expertise in the specific field, as they are likely to teach higher level courses in accordance with Rowan’s curriculum standards.
No other school in the state of New Jersey currently offers a program with the same structure as Rowan’s proposed 3-plus-1, Cardona says.
The program was the brainchild of Rowan University President Dr. Ali Houshmand, and as emphasized by Cardona, is greatly supported by the enthusiasm of the presidents of the county colleges, who have to endure the most important work by offering the programs and providing the appropriate faculty and advisement resources.
It has yet to be determined if 3-plus-1 students would be able to live on Rowan’s campus for the fourth year of the program. The availability of housing will increase next year on account of further housing on Rowan Boulevard and completed construction of Holly Pointe Commons, a 1,4000 bed undergraduate housing facility on Main and Carpenter Streets.
“People want solutions and people want options,” Cardona says. “This helps create a different pathway for different students so there is an option for everyone.”