President’s Corner

DR. ANTHONY IACONO
College President

It is amazing to think that the semester is approximately half over. We are at the point where, for many students, walking across the graduation stage is a rapidly approaching reality. I truly enjoy that day. It is wonderful to celebrate with so many great and hard working students. It is also the time of year when some students are thinking about transferring out of CCM before earning their associate degree or, worse, stopping out or even dropping out of college. Whether you are considering withdrawing from a course, transferring out of CCM before earning your degree, stopping out or dropping out, I urge you to consider the long term advantages and drawbacks. Most of all, I urge you to avoid making these decisions without talking to your professors, your adviser or someone from CCM who is able to help you make the best decision based upon your concern, i.e. a financial aid counselor.  

I recently had a good conversation with a group of students and I asked them why they thought students transferred to other schools before completing their associate degree at CCM. They responded that it was due to a number of reasons, including the fact that some students enrolled at CCM with the original intent of staying for only one year. For others, it was the opportunity to move away to an environment they envisioned as more exciting. There are many reasons students leave CCM before finishing their degree and, in some cases, it may make sense but a few things to consider that my student discussion group felt most students did not know before deciding to leave early. First, approximately 80 percent of students who complete their associate degree transfer successfully to a school of their choice. Second, the graduation rate of CCM students who transfer after earning their associate degree are equal to or greater than native university students. Third, students who transfer without completing their associate degree first have baccalaureate graduation rates that, at some schools, can be as low as 30 percent.  This is due to numerous conditions including credits that are lost during the transfer process. Lost credits can set students back a semester or more and cost them significantly more money than they would have otherwise spent had they remained at CCM. Increased costs are related not only to direct educational expenses but also to lost wages due to delayed graduation. Since the average starting salary for a baccalaureate graduate is somewhere in the neighborhood of $45,000, an extra semester could add $20,000 or more to a student’s educational expenses due to delayed entry into the workforce.  Remember, the goal of college is to learn, earn a degree with as little debt as possible, launch your career and enjoy the fruits of your labor – not pay as much money as possible, incur more debt than necessary, and make payments on a student loan that is literally the size of a small mortgage. In many cases, loans may be a practical solution to reaching your educational goals but keeping them as small as possible should be paramount.  Finally, students who complete their degrees before transferring often receive generous academic scholarships. CCM has many articulation agreements with colleges and universities across NJ and around the nation. Consider Rutgers on our campus or our many agreements with Montclair, NJIT, Rowan, and other fine schools. Think about Farleigh Dickinson where CCM graduates receive a 40 percent tuition discount upon transfer. Explore your options by scheduling an appointment with transfer advisor Kari Hawkins to find a transfer option that is best for you. My student friends tell me she is amazing and really helped them.

As previously stated, this is the time of the semester when students begin to withdraw from classes, stop out and even drop out. Before you withdraw from a course, be sure to talk with your professor and decide together if that option really makes sense. If you are receiving any type of financial aid, loans, scholarships, work study funding, etc., you should consider the impact of withdrawing from even one course. For those not familiar, stopping out is when students decide to take a semester or more off with the intent of returning in the near future. Every situation is different, but in my case I remained in college from associate degree through doctoral degree. I worked lots of different jobs and made loads of sacrifices. My fear was that if I stopped, life would present distractions that would prevent me from completing my education. I was determined to earn my degrees and refused to let anything stop me. As a student, I was always worried whether or not this approach was a good choice. At times this was a hard decision and the temptation to stop out was occasionally tempting. But it was more than worth it. The struggle taught me how to persevere through challenging times and taught me to never, ever, ever give up on myself. I did it and so can you. I was the first person in my immediate family to go to college and, although I was not as well prepared academically as I should have been, I had a dream and was willing to work hard. Luckily, I also had the support of family and friends, exceptional professors, a terrific advisor and patient tutors.

When you came to CCM, I hope you came with a dream just as I did when I enrolled at Indian River Community College almost three decades ago. If you didn’t, seek and find your passion. The world is a big place with lots of distractions and the journey to the graduation stage takes a lot of focus and grit. That is why I am so proud of those who will soon walk and earn the appreciation and respect that they deserve. Each of our future graduates could have dropped out but they followed their dreams and I encourage you to do the same. So, before you drop a class, stop out or drop out, talk with your professors, your advisor, a department chair, a financial aid staff member or someone in Campus Life. Talk to me or any member of our administrative team. Let us help you finish what you started. Let us help you fulfill your dreams. I did it and so can you. And, yes, it really is worth it!

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