The Burlington County Commissioners announced the ratification of a new agreement expanding a Rowan College at Burlington County program that allows select students from the Burlington County Alternative School to dual-enroll and take college courses for free.
Burlington County Commissioner Linda Hynes, who serves as the Board’s liaison to the college, and the County’s Special Services School District and vocational schools, said the new agreement would allow the successful alternative school program to continue to flourish and give additional students the opportunity to get a jumpstart on higher education.
“Burlington County is proud to be the home of one of the best community colleges in the nation, and this agreement will allow more of our Alternative School students to attend classes at RCBC and earn college credit at the same time they’re finishing high school,” Hynes said. “This program is a proven success, and our Board is thrilled to see it expand so more students can benefit from it.”
Rowan College at Burlington County President Dr. Michael A. Cioce also praised the partnership and said additional alternative school students would be a welcome addition to the college community.
“Rowan College at Burlington County believes that students' success should be defined by their talent, ambition and work ethic. This partnership reflects that idea by providing educational opportunities to students who excel at the Burlington County Alternative School. We look forward to welcoming even more BCAS students to our community through this expanded partnership,” Cioce said.
The Alternative School is a program of the Burlington County Special Services School District and is open to students throughout Burlington County who may experience difficulties reaching their potential at traditional public schools. The program offers students a highly individualized education plan that allows them to receive more individual attention and work at their own pace, including some who graduate earlier than they would at a traditional high school.
The Alternative School has long had a close association with the county college and is located in a building off Briggs Road near the college’s Mount Laurel campus.
The college classes are offered tuition-free, but the program is currently capped at 10 total course seats for the entire year. However, under the new agreement, the limit will nearly triple to 25 seats beginning with the 2021-22 academic year.
There are no fees for the enrolled students and the Burlington County Special Services School District Foundation has agreed to cover the expense of any textbooks and materials required for the courses.
Alternative School officials said the new agreement, which was approved unanimously Tuesday evening by the Rowan College at Burlington County Board of Trustees, was a huge plus that would give more students early exposure to the college.
"We are fortunate to have a longstanding partnership with RCBC that values equitable opportunities for students to take college courses while in high school. For many of our students, this is a lifeline,” said Dr. Christopher Nagy, Superintendent of Schools for Burlington County Special Services School District and the Burlington County Institute of Technology. “The approval of additional college courses allows more of our students the opportunity to be exposed to the college experience and change the trajectory of their future aspirations. Students must earn this opportunity, and thus, it is more appreciated when granted."
Between 80 to 90 students typically graduate from the Alternative School each year and officials said the bulk of those who enroll in two or four-year postsecondary schools go to RCBC.
Burlington County Alternative School Principal Joan Barbagiovanni said the dual-enrollment partnership with the college has helped motivate students and created numerous success stories.
"The partnership between Rowan College at Burlington County and Burlington County Alternative School (BCAS) is so important. These students have the ability to sample a variety of higher education coursework with the support of their BCAS teachers,” said Barbagiovanni. “Students who participate in this program are able to have the time to develop the skills necessary to be successful in a college setting, therefore making them more successful in their post-secondary education plans. I am extremely excited that this opportunity is being expanded for more students."
Hynes said the program was another example of county institutions and government partnering to better serve residents.
“RCBC and our county schools have long traditions of success and achievement, and it’s gratifying to see them work together to do even more,” Hynes said. “As a proud RCBC graduate, I know firsthand how a great college education can make a difference, and our Board is committed to helping ensure all our students have access to the opportunities the college offers them.”