CRANFORD, NJ - For decades, the U.S. was number one in the world in the percentage of 25-34 year-olds with college degrees. Today we rank 14th in the world, as only 42 percent of that age group has an associate or bachelor’s degree.

The US Department of Education has challenged the nation’s 1,200 community colleges to help the American educational system restore its “first in the world” status. Over the past two years, the DOE has invested $26 million in funding for this “First In The World” grant program.

During the week of Sept. 21, the DOE announced the winning grant proposals. Union County College, with partner and lead Bergen Community College, are one of only 17 winners nation-wide and will split a $2.6 million award over four years.

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The idea Union and Bergen will pursue to help improve graduation success for students involves basic-skills math. For the joint project, the schools will include a combined 8,400 students from both community colleges.

The cohort will be randomly divided into three groups. The first group receives instruction through a ‘Boot Camp’ as a short-term, pre-semester bridge program and then moves immediately into College-level math.

The second group is enrolled directly into credit-bearing college math—regardless of how these students fare on their Accuplacer test—but are also afforded the services of a tutor for at least one hour per week.

For the third group, students will receive the traditional developmental-math courses which are predominantly in a lecture format at both Union and Bergen.

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.

Editor's Note: Union County College is an advertiser of TAPintoSPF. To learn about advertising opportunities, email