Rowan College of South Jersey Students Discuss Benefits of Affordable Higher Education with U.S. Secretary of Education

By: Michael Mandarino, Follow South Jersey Managing Editor

Photo: Jon Bradley | Follow South Jersey

DEPTFORD TOWNSHIP, N.J. — Colleges and universities throughout New Jersey are getting back in the swing of things this month, but over the summer, two Rowan College of South Jersey graduates were part of a panel discussion about the benefits of affordable higher education with one of the United States’ top education officials.

Jesus Calixto and Miriam Craig-Venti participated in a panel discussion with U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona over the summer during an event that took place on RCSJ’s Gloucester County campus. During the panel discussion, Calixto and Craig-Venti shared stories about what they gained from their community college experiences.

Craig-Venti explained how she was eligible for “up to $30,000” to be used towards tuition and books through the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program. She was eligible for the federal program after being let go from her accounting job, and she’s now pursuing a bachelor’s degree in finance at Wilmington University.

“I determined that, by attending community college at RCSJ’s Gloucester campus, not only could I complete the core classes necessary for my associate degree, but many of the classes were part of a four-year degree program at Wilmington University and were easily transferable,” Craig-Venti, who expects to graduate from Wilmington next May, said.

Elsewhere, Calixto utilized the Cumberland Bridge 2 Rowan (CB2R) grant program offered at RCSJ-Cumberland to pursue his dreams in biomedical science. As an RCSJ-Cumberland student, Calixto participated in research while pursuing his associate’s degree, and he’ll continue to help conduct important research at Rowan University.

“I had the amazing opportunity to do undergrad research at Cumberland at the associate level,” Calixto, whose work focuses on stem cell and regenerative research, said. “Now, I’m transferring to Rowan University, and I’ll be doing undergrad research over there too.”

Secretary Cardona described the relationship between Rowan College of South Jersey and Rowan University as a “hidden gem” thanks to its mission to make higher education affordable and accesible to a broader audience.

“I’m glad to be here and I’m glad to start my day visiting students in action, learning by doing, which is the best way,” Cardona said. “They’re getting the skills to join the workforce to fulfill their life’s purpose. And that’s what this is about.”

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