Nationally, nearly 600,000 jobs disappeared last month, that’s 20,000 pink slips a day, the largest loss in 13 consecutive months of decline. The total number of jobs lost since the recession began in December of 2007 is now 3.6 million nationally.The Economic Policy Institute released a research note last Friday; the economy should have added about 1.7 million jobs over the past 13 months just to keep pace with the growth in population. The economy is now far below the goal of five million jobs just to achieve stability in the labor market.
This is the grim situation: Jobs are being cut and unemployment is rising in virtually all sectors of the economy and among every demographic group. Meanwhile families’ savings and pension plans have collapsed; more than 13.6 million Americans now owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. Retirement savings have drastically diminished by more than $2 trillion in less than a year. Here in Bergen County, the unemployment rate is only 5.4 percent, below the 7.6 national rate and below the New Jersey rate of 7.0 percent. The reality of the situation is that unemployment in Bergen County will lag the national rate and is likely to deepen in the near future. Now more than ever, millions of Americans need a viable way to retrain into high growth industries such as healthcare, green industries, retail, hospitality, criminal justice, small business development, biotechnology, and more.
Community colleges constitute the ultimate solution as the Super Highway out of the recession. Last September more than 163,000 students enrolled in this excellent state-wide system already built. In reality, that’s more than forty percent of all students enrolled in New Jersey colleges and universities. Community Colleges have a long legacy of historical commitment to access, affordability, and community connections. Community Colleges offer comprehensive certificate and degree programs geared to 21st century jobs. Short term customized training opportunities to gain or enhance job skills is a hallmark of the Continuing Education programs which offer shorter term programs across a broad array of career opportunities. Additionally, for individuals seeking a licensure credential to change career tracks, this benefit is available for selected fields such as Registered Nurse, Dental Hygienist, Building Inspector and more. These affordable fast-track programs get people working immediately in high opportunity careers.
Community Colleges collaborate with state and local unemployment agencies and Workforce Investment Boards to offer free courses for those currently unemployed. In recognition of the credit crisis, Community Colleges offer flexible tuition payment schedules and millions of dollars in local, state, and federal financial aid assistance. Working in cooperation with an array of local and regional partners, Bergen Community College was recently awarded nearly $2.3 million for a Community –Based Job Training Grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.
In January, Community Colleges had record enrollments. What is the driving force behind this growth? The reasons are simple. We are America’s college. We are democracy’s college but most importantly, we are the community’s college. We are the architects of human capital and we build society’s trust and we do this at a tuition price point that offers access to all.
Dr. G. Jeremiah Ryan, President
Bergen Community College
400 Paramus Road
Paramus, New Jersey 07652
Office: (201) 447-7235 Fax: (201) 447-9042
Community Colleges Poised to Benefit from Stimulus Plan
Bergen Community College a Partner in Economic Recovery
Community Colleges are the vehicles for job growth under President Barack Obama’s $787 billion economic recovery package.
The federal plan allocates $3.95 billion for job training, including grants for programs providing assistance to adult, dislocated workers and youth, and a number of provisions for initiatives in viable growth fields, such as grants for “green jobs.” $15.5 billion will be applied toward increasing the maximum Pell Grant by $500, expanding access to higher education to students in economic need.
“Community colleges are well suited to fulfill this key mission of economic recovery and to help people become gainfully employed in high growth areas,” Bergen President Dr. G. Jeremiah Ryan. “As the largest community college in New Jersey, Bergen Community College, partners with state and local unemployment agencies and Workforce Investment Boards to extend free workforce training and affordable tuition for continuing education and degree-seeking students.”
Working in cooperation with an array of local and regional partners, Bergen Community College was awarded a near $2.3 million Community-based Job training grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. This grant supports the College’s new “North Jersey Retail, Hospitality and Entertainment Pathway Initiative,” expanding retail and hospitality curricula, employment training and job placement programs offered by the College and through its partners. Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands serves as the primary focus for the project.
Another facet of this community-based grant is the Regional Center for Disability Employment known as the MOSAIC Center. This initiative seeks to empower people with disabilities by helping them to secure employment, retrain for jobs, and advance in their careers. The Henry H. Kessler Foundation donated $500,000 to establish this worthy endeavor to counter the impact the economic downturn has had on disabled individuals.
Economic incentives are an integral part of the stimulus program, which includes $20 billion aimed at green jobs. Green courses offered through Bergen Community College’s Continuing Education program appeal to professionals in the construction trades and interior design, as well as homeowners interested in learning about environmentally-friendly practices. In addition, the College offers degrees in environmental technology and horticulture. Such academic offerings increase a students’ awareness of the environment and prepare them for careers in environmental technology, preservation and horticulture.
The stimulus package extends the monetary reach of the lowest-income students. The Pell Grant maximum will increase from $4,731 to $5,350 beginning July 1, 2009 and will be raised to $5,550 in 2010 – 2011. In 2008 – 2009, 3,809 students at Bergen Community College received Pell Grants, nearly a 27 percent increase over the number of students who received Pell Grants in 2006 – 2007.
The stimulus package also provides a $2,500 tuition tax credit, with a 40 percent refund, and earmarks $200 million for work-study programs.
A portion of the stimulus package’s $54 billion state stabilization fund - $39 billion - is targeted toward infrastructure projects at community colleges.
Health Professions Training
The stimulus package will provide $200 million to address health professions workforce shortages; Bergen’s Division of Health Professions is a leader in the field of career training. The $200 million allotment is expected to provide scholarships, loan repayments and grants for equipment.
About Bergen Community College
Bergen Community College is a public two-year coeducational college, enrolling more than 15,000 students in Associate in Arts, Associate in Science, and Associate in Applied Science degree programs and certificate programs. More than 10,000 students are enrolled in non-credit, professional courses through the Division of Continuing Education, the Institute for Learning in Retirement, the Philip J. Ciarco Jr. Learning Center, located at 355 Main Street, Hackensack, and Bergen at the Meadowlands, located at 1280 Wall Street West, Lyndhurst. Information about the College is available at www.bergen.edu or by phoning the Welcome Center at (201) 447-7200.