To Brookdale Community College student Victor Turitzin of Middletown, an associate degree means transferring credits easily. To Justin Melendez, a business student from Howell, an associate’s means a greater statistical chance of completing a bachelor’s. To T.J. Curran of Colts Neck, the associate degree is a milestone. “When I transfer, I can always say to someone, ‘I have a degree.’”
The three students are among many signing their names to a banner Oct. 14-17, pledging to earn a community college credential. The event is taking place in the main lounge of the Warner Student Life Center between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
The signing is part of the larger statewide New Jersey Phi Theta Kappa Community College Completion Challenge (NJ C4) sponsored by the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) and the New Jersey Council of County Colleges’ (NJCCC) Center for Student Success.
All 19 community colleges throughout the state are hosting a series of campus-based activities during this week. The activities are part of an effort to increase the number of community college students completing their associate degrees and certificates so they can successfully transfer to four-year colleges and universities, earn bachelor’s degrees and enter careers that provide family-sustaining wages.
According to statistics supplied by the NJCCC, students who earn an associate degree before transferring to a senior college have a 70 percent chance of completing a four-year degree and are protected by NJ law from losing credits. In addition, those who earn community college credentials or degrees in hot job fields have significantly higher starting salaries than students with baccalaureate degrees.
Last year, Brookdale Community College was the top associate degree granting college in New Jersey.
At the banner signing, students will receive information about the need for completing the community college credential and will have a chance to receive one of three themed gift baskets. Other NJ C4 activities at Brookdale include a carnival from 11:30 to 1:30 Oct. 24. The carnival will take place at the Lincroft campus along the pathway between the Center for the Visual Arts and the Warner Student Life Center. The event will feature games, activities, food and prizes, along with information and statistics about the importance of a community college credential. In a scavenger hunt game, students will be asked to collect tabs from various posters displayed around the Brookdale campus, each one highlighting a different reason for completing a degree.
Phi Theta Kappa is the international honor society for community college students. The national Community College Completion Initiative began in April 2010, when leaders from Phi Theta Kappa, the American Association of Community Colleges, the Association of Community College Trustees, the League for Innovation in the Community College and the Center for Community College Student Engagement signed Democracy’s Colleges: A Call to Action.
The Community College Completion Challenge website, www.cccompletionchallenge.org, showcases the missions, action plans and strategies developed by each organization to involve their constituents in helping produce five million additional associate degree and certificate holders by 2020.
“Phi Theta Kappa is committed to actively promoting completion of a college credential—an associate degree or certificate among college students,” Dr. Rod Risley, executive director of Phi Theta Kappa, said. “Throughout this completion week in New Jersey we hope to encourage students to take that pledge and declare that they will, indeed, complete their education.”
Further information is available at The Community College Completion Corps website at www.cccompletionchallenge.org.