CRANFORD -  Union County College, with partner and lead Bergen Community College, is one of only 17 winners nation-wide to be awarded by the US Department of Education a $2.6 million grant over four years, split between the two institutions.

The goal of the DOE’s “First InThe World” grant program is to boost the percentage of college graduates in the United States. For decades, the USA was number one in the world in the percentage of 25 to 34 year-olds with college degrees. Today the country has slipped to 14th in the world, with only 42 percent of that age group having an associate or bachelor’s degree.

Union and Bergen will pursue to help improve graduation success for students involves basic-skills math. For the joint project, Union and Bergen will include a combined 8,400 students from both community colleges. The goals of this program are to: 1) increase the 3-semester retention rates of first time students placing into remedial math, and 2) decrease time to completion of first-time full-time students placing into developmental math.

In other words, it’s making America number one again.