By: Christian Oberly
CARNEYS POINT, N.J. — On Wednesday evening, President of Salem Community College, Dr. Michael Gorman delivered a “State of the College” address in the school’s Donaghay Hall.
Gorman chose to format his presentation like a David Letterman-style “Top 10” list, listing out key facts and figures about the current state of SCC, including updates on increasing enrollment, campus upgrades, and the return of the athletics department.
10. “We’ve Got Glass”
SCC’s glass programs — both Scientific Glass and Glass Art — have students from across the country and around the world, in fact, Gorman said that approximately 80% of the students in both programs are from outside our region. The programs owe their success to a variety of factors: world-class instructors like Artist in Residence Paul Stankard, a long history of providing quality glass education (the Scientific Glass program started in 1959), and a new state-of-the-art facility for glassblowing instruction.
9. “We’ve Got Sports”
The college recently revived its athletics program after scuttling all sports back in 2013 and 2014. Currently, they operate cross country, basketball (men’s and women’s), baseball, softball, soccer (men’s and women’s), and esports. And there’s talk of potentially adding football and perhaps even rodeo to the list.
The biggest barrier for starting a football team at SCC is a financial one. Gorman joked about the cost of establishing a team, saying if anyone’s got the $500,000 to donate, “We’ll put your name on every jersey!”
One of Gorman’s stated goals when he became SCC’s president in 2015 was the return of athletics, and he’s achieved it — but the success implies more than it may at first seem.
Back when he took office, Gorman told Bill Gallo Jr. of NJ.com, “[The return of sports] will be a bellwether for us. If you see us with a basketball team or baseball team, that will indicate our financial health is improving.” Which leads to the next topic…
8. “We’ve Got More Students”
The latest numbers show SCC’s enrollment is up 14% year-over-year. The school has just under 1,200 students now, according to stats put out by CommunityCollegeReview.com.
The Community College Opportunity Grant (CCOG), which rolled out in spring of 2019, was an initiative by Gov. Phil Murphy to give students “an opportunity to pursue [their] dreams.” The grant assists students who come from households earning less than $65,000 per year with paying for classes at community colleges throughout the state of New Jersey.
Just in fall of 2019, 30 SCC students were able to take advantage of the CCOG and save a combined total of $39,352.
And the college has other ways to help students save money. Through their College Acceleration Program, they offer dual-credit courses to high school students that has, to date, saved students $1.4 million in tuition.
7. “We’ve Got Unique People”
Gorman (who happens to ride a Harley-Davidson motorcycle to work) spoke of the college’s staff and how they form a “unique” team dedicated to helping students and the community. Highlights include: The CFO who is a former bank president and the assistant dean of academic affairs who was a Division I athlete.
6. “We’ve Got a Beautiful Campus”
Touting the new Samuel and Jean Jones Glass Education Center that was built on their Carneys Point campus as a strong boost to the school’s curb appeal, Gorman also described some other improvements that have been made to the school’s Klinke Green like new picnic tables and a new Alumni Clock.
Additionally, SCC was able to take advantage of the state’s “Chapter 12” debt-financed capital program to make improvements to their facilities, including upgrades to Davidow’s HVAC system and theater lighting, repairs on Donaghay’s automatic doors, and fixing up bathrooms across the campus. Going forward, they hope to add space to support the athletics department with new workspaces and storage.
5. “We’ve Made Learning Affordable”
In another slide, Gorman described the ways that SCC has simplified their pricing — charging a flat rate of $180 per credit and only charging material fees for the classes that really need it.
“When you go to the bursar’s window to pay your bill, there shouldn’t be a surprise,” he said.
The school has also made strides in being more accommodating by adding more hybrid courses that feature a combination of in-person and online class hours.
4. “We’ve Got High Quality”
SCC may be a small school, but that doesn’t mean they skimp out on offering a quality education, says Gorman.
The school has highly successful niche programs like glass and nursing that see graduates go on to work in good industry jobs and pass state boards with flying colors. And, according to Gorman, 92% of all SCC graduates who apply to Rowan University are accepted. (To put that into perspective, he noted the acceptance rates for Rowan College of South Jersey and Rowan College of Burlington County transfers are 93% and 91%, respectively.)
He also touted the school’s graduation rate of 40% and retention rate of 60%. And while those numbers may not look amazing, they are when you compare them to the state’s other community colleges. (In fact, Gorman said SCC’s graduation rate is the highest of all New Jersey community colleges.)
3. “We’re Empowered”
Students who graduate from college go on to earn more than non-graduates, it’s been shown through statistics time and time again. In his address, Gorman said graduates can earn up to $9,000 per year more than non-graduates.
And the school encourages students to continue their education beyond a two-year degree — and many of them do. Transferring to Rowan University, Wilmington University, Rutgers University, Rider University, The College of New Jersey, Drexel University, and Stockton University (which has a special “Pathway Partnership” with community colleges like SCC which allows students who are not initially accepted to return once they receive a two-year degree elsewhere).
2. “We’ve Served the Community”
The college considers itself a point of pride for Salem County as a whole. SCC views itself as a cultural center, thanks in large part to its facilities like the Sol and Jean Davidow Performing Arts Theater and the Glass Education Center. They’ve also taken on the role of an economic hub by facilitating business growth and training.
As an institution, they set the pace for learning in the county and see it as one of their goals to facilitate county progress, according to Gorman.
1. “We Care, We Really Care”
Gorman closed out his address with the confession that the most important reason to “love your Salem Community College” is that they care.
“We’re like the Cheers of community colleges, here, everybody really does know your name,” he said.
And with a student-to-teacher ratio of about 16:1, that’s most likely true.
To hear President Gorman tell it, the staff of SCC is dedicated to the success of their students. He said they take the time to assist and support each student with personalized advising, counseling, tutoring, professional support, and more. “This is why we come in every day. We’re here to help the people who need it,” he said.
Afterward, he opened up the floor to “questions, comments, criticisms, or complaints.”
There were three questions, but no criticisms or complaints.