BRIDGETON — Could a merger with Gloucester County help Cumberland County College? The Cumberland County Board of Freeholders hopes so.
Last month, it was revealed that the county college was entering talks with Rowan College at Gloucester County to discuss creating a regional county college. In a statement last week, Cumberland Freeholder Director Joe Derella expressed support toward that goal.
“The basis for considering this new structure for higher education significantly benefits county residents as well as current future employers who may be seeking a degree or a skilled workforce,” Derella wrote in a statement Friday.
In that statement, Derella noted the dire finances at Cumberland County College, which he said is projected to face a $2 million budget gap this year if no shared services are implemented. Derella said declining enrollment has exacerbated the financial problems at the college, which have been stalled through administrative cuts.
A majority of the college budget is funded through tuition and fees, but enrollment at the college has decreased by 26 percent in the past five years, state data show.
On Monday, Derella said the freeholder board is tasked with approving a budget for the county college but also has a vested interest in providing educational opportunities for county residents.
“We, unfortunately, are constantly reminded that we are on the wrong end of a lot of important lists,” Derella said, noting the county has high rates of unemployment coupled with low graduation rates and low rates of residents with post-secondary degrees.
He said the county is hoping to change those rates through a variety of educational initiatives, some of which are through the college.
“Maybe expanding those opportunities could possibly add to that opportunity to change the educational level of our county,” Derella said.
Representatives from Cumberland County College and Rowan College at Gloucester County were not immediately available for comment.
Derella said the conversations at this point are only exploratory and that no commitments have been made.
This story is developing, check back for updates.