Vision 2028: Initial Framework




Click here to download the Vision 2028 Initial Framework

VISION 2028: A Bold Vision for the Future

In a rapidly changing world and global economy, New Jersey’s community colleges are critical institutions of higher education and economic opportunity able to reach a significant proportion of the state’s population and to offer high quality education that serves the needs of students, employers, and local communities. Created in the 1960s, New Jersey’s 19 community colleges now enroll over 325,000 students at over 60 campuses throughout the state, making them the largest provider of higher education in the state.

New Jersey’s future and that of its residents depends on a strong network of community colleges uniquely able to assist individuals to obtain the skills and knowledge they will need to thrive in a rapidly changing, knowledge-based world. In fall 2018, the New Jersey Council of County Colleges, working with the state’s 19 community colleges, launched the Vision 2028 effort to develop a bold vision for the future.

We obtained input from over 500 community college leaders and stakeholders through more than 20 meetings, a statewide Leadership Summit, and through online comments from more than 180 members of the community college community, including students, alumni, trustees, faculty, staff, and others. What follows summarizes all of the input from these discussions to determine how community colleges adapt in order to be the educational engines of our communities in the future.

Building on a Strong Foundation

New Jersey’s strong network of comprehensive, open door community colleges respond fully to the educational, cultural, and community needs of their respective counties. New Jersey’s comprehensive community colleges prepare students to enter four-year institutions, train them to assume skilled positions in New Jersey’s workforce, and offer many other programs that enrich the quality of life for the state’s residents. The community colleges offer a wide variety of associate degree programs including both transfer and occupational curricula, and certificate programs in various occupational fields, as well as noncredit courses that serve students’ careers or general interests.

New Jersey’s community colleges are a critical nexus in the state’s education system. The colleges have strong partnerships with the K-12 sector, providing dual enrollment programs to nearly tens of thousands of students annually to ensure that students are prepared for post-secondary education and are on a pathway to further education.

The community colleges also have strong partnerships and articulation agreements with New Jersey’s public and private four-year colleges and universities, playing a critical role in baccalaureate degree attainment for students in this state. According to the National Student Clearinghouse, 45% of all students who earned a bachelor’s degree from a New Jersey college or university had previously completed courses at a community college. Students who complete their first two years at a New Jersey community college before transferring to a four-year school save $21,000 in tuition – the most in the country. In short, community colleges are the centralized engine of higher education in New Jersey.

Community colleges play a critical role in meeting the workforce needs of New Jersey’s businesses. Each college has a wide array of innovative collaborations with businesses and other partners that help companies upgrade the skills of their employees, provide training to unemployed and underemployed individuals, and address skills gaps across the state. The Council’s statewide Community College Consortium for Workforce and Economic Development has trained over 207,000 employees at over 9,000 companies throughout New Jersey since its creation in 2003. The Consortium provides a strong platform for further collaboration among the colleges and in partnership with employers in the state’s key industries.

The state’s 19 community colleges function as a network of institutions working collaboratively through the New Jersey Council of County Colleges, a non-profit organization enshrined in state law that works to support and strengthen the state’s community colleges. The Council provides a platform for further partnerships that strengthen each of the individual colleges. The Council’s Center for Student Success has supported college efforts to increase the number of students who earn post-secondary degrees and credentials. Since implementing collaborative statewide student success initiatives in 2008, the number of community college graduates has increased from 15,925 to 23,577, a 48% increase.

New Jersey’s community colleges play a significant role in increasing the number of individuals in New Jersey who have earned a post-secondary industry-valued credential or degree and can play a critical role in helping the state to meet the goal of 65% of the adult population having earned an industry-valued post-secondary credential or degree by 2025.

A Bold Vision for the Future

New Jersey’s community colleges are poised to offer an ever-expansive vision of higher education that is agile, collaborative, and innovative, and that prepares individuals, at varying stages of their lives and careers, for success in an increasingly diverse and global economy. We are rooted in our local communities, responding to local needs of students and employers, while understanding that we live in an increasingly connected global community. We impact our students, counties, and our state, and enable each to compete and thrive in the nation and the world.

Continued and expanded state support for community colleges is critical to the ability of the colleges to achieve this bold vision for the future and to maintain quality and affordable post-secondary education.

With state support and collaboration, New Jersey’s community colleges will work together in the years ahead, developing new models of collaboration and cooperation and leading partnerships with businesses, educational institutions, government, community and faith-based organizations, and other stakeholders in order to:

I. Increase access to a post-secondary education for more New Jerseyans

  • Partner with K-12 to improve college and career readiness, to provide essential student support interventions (financial aid literacy, career explorations, intentional advising), and to design robust, clear academic and technical pathways for all students;
  • Serve adults by adopting comprehensive and fair prior learning assessment protocols to provide college credit for learning gained outside the college classroom, by establishing academic and technical path- ways that serve in-demand sectors and occupations (that include stackable credentials), and by redesigning both curricula frameworks and support services to better promote retention and completion;
  • Focus on partnering with a wide range of institutions to close equity and achievement gaps and regional disparities in post-secondary educational attainment;
  • Work to reduce the financial barriers to a post-secondary education through the continued support of the Federal Pell Grant program, the broadening and deepening of Community College Opportunity Grants (New Jersey’s free community college program), and through support for Tuition Aid Grants and the Equal Opportunity Fund; and
  • Address both the out-migration of high school graduates and affordability by offering applied baccalaureate degrees in response to local workforce needs.

II. Support the success of students

  • Strengthen career advising services for potential and current students through partnerships with high schools, employers, workforce development organizations, libraries, and community and faith-based organizations;
  • Expand and strengthen student supports, including first-year initiatives, advising, and program maps that will support completion of credentials and degrees;
  • Expand and strengthen the utilization of open use digital textbooks and other advances to reduce financial barriers for all students;
  • Expand partnerships with government and community and faith-based organizations in order to expand the social services that are available to students to reduce food and housing insecurity, increase access to child care and health care, mental health services, and address transportation barriers; and
  • Re-imagine a transfer culture so that all residents are offered accelerated, affordable, and agile pathways to public and private four-year in-state colleges and universities.

III. Ensure access to valuable and relevant learning

  • Build on the unique strengths of community colleges by ensuring students have the opportunity to obtain critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, learn essential knowledge, and prepare to be citizens of a democracy and participants in an increasingly diverse community;
  • Ensure that students have the opportunity to obtain the skills that will enable them to obtain a family-supporting career;
  • Build partnerships with employers to assist them to upgrade the skills of their current employees through tuition-assistance programs;
  • Continue and expand the role of community colleges in providing life-long learning opportunities for individuals at various stages of their lives and careers;
  • Strengthen work-based learning opportunities for students, including internships, apprenticeships, and service-learning;
  • Lead the development of industry-focused collaboratives that bring together community colleges, employers, and other education partners to identify industry needs, develop new credit-bearing credentials and pathways, expand apprenticeship programs, and provide outreach to employers and students in order to tackle urgent skilled worker shortages, and to support long-term economic development efforts;
  • Integrate credit and non-credit programs by building new credit / non-credit pathways that allow students in workforce programs to transition to credit-bearing degree programs and allow credit students to earn industry-valued credentials;
  • Expand industry-valued credit-bearing credential programs; and
  • Further review the changing workforce needs of employers, the future of work, and innovations in higher education, and consider the implications of competency-based education for the delivery of higher education through community colleges, which would allow students to advance based on their abilities to master skills and competencies at their own pace.

IV. Serve as community engines

  • Promote innovative public-private partnerships, opening the campuses to a broad range of stakeholders; and
  • Imagine their own campuses not only as well documented engines of economic development – and an exceptional return on investment – but as incubators of innovation, as laboratories of entrepreneurial experiment, as communal maker spaces, as campuses that invent products, services, and businesses.

From Vision to Action

This vision for the future is just the beginning. In April 2019, New Jersey’s community colleges will release a full Vision 2028 report based on this framework that will set a bold new direction for community colleges with a plan of action. Throughout 2019, New Jersey’s community colleges will implement the plan of action by expanding and deepening partnerships with a wide variety of stakeholders, including federal, state, and local governments, employers, high schools, four-year colleges and universities, community and faith-based organizations, and social services organizations to expand economic mobility and to ensure that New Jersey has the most innovative and productive workforce in the country.

Invitation to Join Us

Community colleges are well positioned to play a significant role in addressing many of the challenges and opportunities facing New Jersey. We cannot do this alone. And we need your perspectives, your partnership, and your ideas for innovation, both now and in the years ahead.

If you or your organization is interested in partnering with community colleges, please contact the New Jersey Council of County Colleges at