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Partnership Needed to Meet Montgomery’s Community College Needs

By Rikki Massand l February 9, 2021


Montgomery Township Committeewoman Catherine Gural outlined her priorities for what she refers to as her third and final year of service on the governing body.


Among Gural’s top priorities are continuing to build upon Montgomery’s relationship with Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC) and to better understand the needs for continuing education, small business skills and computer training, English as a Second Language (ESL).


“We need to perform a deep-dive and real qualitative needs assessment, to compare with what RVCC has to offer. This will include business resources and corporate or small business training opportunities, and the Montgomery Business Association should be approached for insights,” Gural said.

RVCC was named Somerset County College when it was officially established on April 5, 1966. A new era was born when the governing commissioners in Hunterdon and Somerset counties approved co-sponsorship of the college. In July 1987, Somerset County College was renamed Raritan Valley Community College: the state’s first bi-county college.


Gural says she wonders if in recent years Montgomery’s residents have missed out on some of the community-based resources that could be provided by RVCC, in large part due to distance and lack of familiarity.


Montgomery is about 19 miles, or a 45-minute-drive away from the college campus, located in Branchburg. Mercer County Community College in West Windsor is actually closer.


RVCC’s lack of an established connection in Montgomery and overall in the southern tier of Somerset County represents an opportunity for the college plus the township as it looks to provide services and programming.


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Montgomery Township Administrator Donato Nieman says RVCC discussed ideas with the township on solidifying a physical presence within Montgomery. According to Nieman, over the past year and due to the pandemic much of the outreach planned in conjunction with RVCC was put on hold.


“There was going to be outreach to our local business community with the college and the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), located at RVCC’s Workforce Training center, set to offer classes targeted to entrepreneurs and support for small businesses, all involving topics businesses and owners would greatly benefit from,” he said.

For spring, all SBDC webinars through RVCC will be free for anyone who wishes to participate. Topics range from applying technology with WordPress, Search Engine Optimization, Zoom for Business, website management, and Google Analytics. Finance and accounting tools are presented through bookkeeping, payroll and database training webinars.
Catherine Gural and her daughter Sadie. (File photo by Barbara A. Preston).

For 2021 Gural plans on investigating what the wants and needs of Montgomery residents and small business people here are through distribution of surveys.

“Several years ago the township put out a survey on library services. Why not leverage the township’s ability to create and administer a survey on training, programs or classes people may be interested in? What are wanted and/or necessary community service Montgomery is not yet providing residents? Or perhaps we expand on recreation and active older adult/senior programs. This would identify service gaps and how RVCC has programming in place to fill the gaps,” Gural explained.


She says she believes alignment of community needs and interests with RVCC programs will occur once feedback is proactively sought.


Gural mentioned that the New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA) offers free training for member organizations and their employees through the SBDC at the college.


“The NJBIA partners with the New Jersey Community College Consortium with funding procured from the State Department of Labor and Workforce Development, and they offer courses to develop skills — Microsoft Suite, Quickbooks, Digital Marketing. If people don’t know they can’t use such RVCC resources,” Gural said.


Nieman and Gural agreed to “level-set” at the next township discussion with RVCC administration including Jacki Belin, the college’s vice president for community affairs and outreach.


One idea spoken of a year ago was for evening classes to be held at Montgomery High School. The brainstorming never evolved into a presentation or discussion with the board of education and MTSD administration. The college’s location, on Lamington Road in Branchburg and near I-78 and the Hunterdon County border, still stirs talk about RVCC’s desire for a physical presence in Montgomery.


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“They needed to be more accessible, but another plan the college has is to build dormitories on campus. That is in their capital plan, and this could work for a student from a community like Montgomery who may not want to go away to attend a large university but who still wants that college campus experience, typically not found at traditional two-year colleges, and the quality of the education there is exceptional,” Nieman commented.


He adds that RVCC has transfer agreements for many of its degree programs to Rutgers, Drew University, Kean, Seton Hall, St. Joseph’s (Philadelphia) Rider, NJIT, American University, Johnson and Wales University, Drexel, Emerson College, Fashion Institute of Technology and many more. ■

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