CRANFORD - The Union County Board of School Estimate approved Union County College’s 2016-17 operating and capital budgets during its annual meeting on Thurs., Apr. 14.

                The College’s 2017 Operating Budget will rely on a 3.8 percent increase in tuition to help support the College’s student-success initiatives. The County is contributing $14 million to the $72 million cost of operating a College that serves 30,000 credit and noncredit students. The $9.9 million capital support that the College will receive features projects that Union County College President Margaret M. McMenamin says will “directly and positively impact our students and the communities we serve.”

                Freeholder Chair Bruce Bergen chaired this year’s five-member Board of School Estimate. Two other Freeholders—Linda Carter and Al Mirabella—participated on behalf of the County. The two College representatives were Union County College Board of Trustees Chair Vic Richel and Vice Chair Frank Bolden. Trustees Cherron Rountree and George Castro served as alternates.

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The operating budget also features a County-initiated “College Readiness” program. Sponsored primarily by Chair Bergen and Freeholder Vice Chair Sergio Granados, the program will offer County high schools with college-placement testing and a boot-camp-like test preparation program to students and residents who cannot afford commercial prep classes like Kaplan and the Princeton Review. Although the Elizabeth School District will be the primary focus of the program, the College is offering this “fast-track to College Math” program to all County school districts.

                A number of other key student-success initiatives that the College piloted last year will receive dedicated funding in the new budget. These include the College Level Examination Program or CLEP, a test that enables students who know course material to show what they know and earn college credits without having to take a class; an early-warning system called Project Academic Student Success (PASS), to help faculty refer students that experience academic and/or personal challenges; on-time registration, a system preventing students from registering after classes start because research suggests that students who register after classes have started are less likely to pass their courses and continue in college through to graduation; intrusive advising, which emphasizes the role of advisors in tracking students’ progression to completion; and mandatory New Student Orientation for all first-time, full-time students.

                The budget also supports the reorganization of the Student Development division to provide “one-stop” service support for opening of the Student Services building—the first new construction on the Cranford Campus in 25 years. Scheduled to open in July, this building will be a gateway for new and returning students to whatever services they need, including registration, advisement, financial aid, and student accounts.

                The capital budget will help fund the second phase of renovating the new Health Science Building on the Plainfield Campus, security enhancements in Plainfield and Cranford, technological upgrades on all three campuses, a replacement of the aging electrical substation in Cranford, and roof replacements.

                As the College gears up for the July 1 start of a new fiscal year, Union is poised to embrace greater expectations for student success. Says President McMenamin, “The Board of Chosen Freeholders has been unwavering in their support of our College. They take to heart the College Mission and the work of our faculty and staff. Our Freeholders understand that we will never rest on our laurels and that every dollar they invest in the College proves educational service and the opportunity for a better life for thousands of County residents.”