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The importance of postsecondary attainment is unquestioned.  Research has shown the positive impacts, including increased earnings.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “total employment is expected to increase by 20.5 million jobs from 2010-2020.”  While jobs requiring a professional degree will experience the fastest growth, career opportunities for those without a postsecondary credential or degree are steadily declining.

And yet, we face tremendous challenges to realize these opportunities for wide swaths of our population, as virtually any substantial growth in our nation’s college-going rate for the foreseeable future would have to be among students from groups long left on the sidelines by our educational system: Those underrepresented in higher education, from low-income families, and/or those who would be the first generation in their families to attend college. Indeed, students who live in poverty are more likely to be first-generation college students; they tend to drop out of college at higher rates than those whose parents have college degrees.  For others, the sheer complexity of applying to college is enough to dissuade them from pursuing higher education.  When students from such backgrounds do make it to college, they often find it difficult to adjust to academic expectations for which they were not prepared and a social environment that is often isolating.

These challenges converge to make a “perfect storm” in Newark, with a population predominantly composed of groups underrepresented in higher education and challenged by high poverty, significant unemployment, and low rates of high school graduation and college attainment.  Nearly one-third of Newark residents (30%), and 44% of local children live below the federal poverty level.  Given these stark numbers, it should not be surprising that educational attainment for Newark residents is low.  According to 2012 Census data, 31% of Newark’s population age 25 and older have no diploma, 34% have a high school diploma, 19% have some college education, but no degree, 4% have an associate’s degree, and 13% have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Addressing Postsecondary Attainment

NCLC YouTube ChannelRutgers University – Newark (RU-N) is committed to significantly increase educational attainment in the city of Newark as a partner in, and coordinating hub for, the Newark City of Learning Collaborative (NCLC).  NCLC comprises more than 60 organizations including higher education (RU-N, Essex County College, and NJIT), coordinated through the Joseph C. Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies at RU-N.  NCLC commits to increase the percentage of Newark residents with postsecondary degrees from 13% to 25% by 2025—or, in raw numbers, from 29,000 to 50,000. 

The core value and belief underlying the NCLC is that significant and sustained student achievement can only be reached through building strong partnerships among Newark Public Schools, the higher educational institutions, and community partners to build a pipeline to success.  NCLC’s overarching strategies are:

  • Develop a high school to college postsecondary pipeline through alignment and collaboration with the Newark Public Schools and local charter schools.
  • Increase postsecondary attainment with the help of transfer agreements between two and four year higher education institutions.
  • Increase the provision of financial, academic and socio-emotional supports proven to increase retention and attainment.
  • Develop linkage between education and future career opportunities.

RU-N, specifically, is committed to increase its enrollment of Newark residents from 6% to 10% among first-year students and from 11% to 17% among transfers.  We will accomplish this by working through NCLC to:

  •  Create 10 new college centers in high schools, community based organizations and higher education institutions to provide high school students and their families with easier access to information and support as they apply to college including FAFSA completion and financial aid help.
  • Expand articulation agreements with two-year schools such as Essex County College, including reverse transfer.
  • Strengthening early college high school programs to develop jointly-approved English and math courses.
  • Expand pipeline programs such as Rutgers Future Scholars to increase the number of low-income academically promising students from Newark completing high school and applying to post-secondary institutions.
  • Partner with the Newark Public School district and programs such as Grad Nation to reach and re-enroll “disconnected youth.”
  • Identify adult residents of Newark who have completed some college and building pathways for them to complete high-quality degrees.
  • Doubling the number of students attending summer internship programs such as the Newark College Freshman Institute and College Internship Program (from 160 annually to over 300).

RU-N has established a set of short-term goals—to be achieved by 2016—focused on recruiting, supporting, retaining, and graduating Newark students.  Plans for recruitment target students from Newark and the metropolitan Newark region, particularly transfer students and returning adult learners.

An Honors Living-Learning Community

A major, new initiative addressing our educational attainment goals for Newark students holistically starts with reconsidering the notions of talent and excellence.  Not satisfied with this status quo of merely providing an opportunity to survive in college, RU-N is committed to exploring bold innovations that will set new expectations for students from Newark—and, by extension, across urban America—to thrive in college.  As a signature initiative growing out of our strategic plan, we have begun intensive and extensive conversations to design and support a residential Honors Living-Learning Community (HLLC).

Starting with the admissions process, this dynamic living-learning community will create a pathway and environment that will be inclusive of students who might be missed by traditional admissions processes.  Rather than rely on traditional metrics of college admissions such as high SAT and ACT scores, this HLLC will concentrate on recruiting students with the most academic promise and leadership potential from a holistic perspective.  The RU-N HLLC will provide comprehensive program components—and, crucially, comprehensive financial support through scholarships—that will allow these students to thrive and persist through an undergraduate experience that is rooted in a cohort-model approach—not unlike that used by the highly successful Posse Foundation in its nationally renowned program—and RU-N’s anchor institution mission.

Our vision is to build a state-of-the-art facility that will house upwards of 500 first- and second-year students, dining, recreational, and academic space.  With a curriculum centered on themes of “Local Citizenship in a Global World,” the RU-N Honors Living-Learning Community will focus on enrolling increased numbers of talented students from Greater Newark, who will live and learn at RU-N with students from all over the world, gaining an education emblematic of the notion that “All roads lead to Newark.” 

What makes the RU-N HLLC unique is the student population that it will target and its focus on students’ connection and service to Newark and its surrounding environs.  Challenging curricular and co-curricular experiences will expand learning beyond the classroom and integrate it with daily campus and community life.  The HLLC will engage a broad base of faculty, staff, students, and external stakeholders with wide-ranging technical and disciplinary and professional expertise and yet deeply shared values that define the best of RU-N as we embrace the world, near and far, now and into the future.

Learn more about what we're doing:


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