By ZANE CLARK
Rowan College at Burlington County students first began to take part in the school’s new 3+1 program in January 2017.
Through the program, students who completed their associate’s degree at RCBC’s Mount Laurel Campus were invited to continue their work toward a four-year bachelor’s degree from Rowan University, albeit through a unique method.
Rather than transferring their credits to a different school or traveling to RCBC-partner Rowan University’s main campus in Glassboro, students didn’t have to leave RCBC at all.
Through the 3+1 program, students at RCBC completed their third year of junior-level coursework with RCBC staff, and then for the students’ fourth year of senior-level classes, they simply switched to Rowan University’s online courses or enrolled in special courses taught by Rowan University staff directly at the RCBC campus.
According to college officials, in addition to the ease of never having to leave the RCBC campus, students who enrolled in the 3+1 program saved around $75,000 in tuition and fees through the course of their college career.
Now, with the program having reached two full years of operation, RCBC officials recently reflected on the success of the program by honoring the first 19 students to complete the full 3+1 program at the conclusion of the recent fall semester.
RCBC President Michael Cioce said that just two years ago the 3+1 program was an unproven concept staff and students thought was just “crazy enough to work,” and now, two years later, those involved had made the success of the program a reality.
“Being the first to achieve something is impressive and a milestone, and should give all [students] pride,” Cioce said.
With the program currently offered in seven majors of biology, nursing, psychology, liberal studies, computing and informatics, law and justice and inclusive education, Cioce said the program will have collectively saved its first 92 students (those from this past fall and those set to finish in May) about $3.3 million.
“That’s a pretty big number, so I’m going to say it again – $3.3 million. Instead of being in debt, all [3+1 students] have greater financial freedom to pursue advanced degrees,” Cioce said.
One such student is Hayley Brunetta, an Edgewater Park resident who graduated from high school in 2015 and who used the 3+1 program to recently complete her bachelor’s degree in biology.
With the financial savings offered by the program, in addition to working when not in class, Brunetta said she was able to graduate with her degree while remaining debt-free and plans to pursue an advanced degree after working this next year.
“I didn’t take out any student loans or anything like that. I’m debt free, and it’s amazing,” Brunetta said.
Brunetta also praised the faculty and advisors who ran the 3+1 program, saying she believes she received more individualized attention and care at RCBC that she might have received at a larger university with more students.
Another member of the inaugural crop of 19 students to complete the 3+1 program was Mount Holly resident Christina Miller, who majored in law and justice.
Miller, who graduated high school in 1992, said prior to the 3+1 program, she had actually received an associate’s degree in business management in 2012 when RCBC was still just Burlington County College.
However, after getting her first degree and working for a few years, she decided to come back to school to continue her education, which happened to coincide with the launch of the 3+1 program.
Now, with her new bachelor’s degree complete, Miller has already started working full time as the manager’s assistant for Eastampton Township.
Similar to Brunetta, Miller also praised the staff of RCBC during her time in the 3+1 program.
“I really do attribute most of my academic success to the faculty and academic instructors here,” Miller said. “They are truly phenomenal people, and this school is, I would argue, and have many times, one of the best in the country. “
Miller, Brunetta and the remaining 17 students who recently completed the 3+1 program are all also invited to participate in Rowan University’s commencement activities in May.