Newark City of Learning Collaborative Honored with “Equity Trailblazer Award”  by the NJ Secretary of Higher Education

Newark City of Learning Collaborative Honored with “Equity Trailblazer Award” by the NJ Secretary of Higher Education

Stakeholders from around the state joined the New Jersey Secretary of Higher Education, Rochelle Hendricks, on Monday, November 20, 2017 in Princeton for “65 by 25: Many Paths, One Future – The Equity Imperative,” during which the Newark City of Learning Collaborative (NCLC) received one of four Equity Trailblazer Awards. Presented “in recognition of innovative, exemplary efforts toward achieving New Jersey’s attainment goal,” awards were also presented to the Garden State LSAMP (Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation) housed at Rutgers University-Newark, Gateway to College at Camden County College, and the Rowan College at Gloucester County Work and Learn Consortium.


The Equity Imperative event was hosted by the Secretary of Higher Education in partnership with Aaron R. Fichtner, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, and New Jersey Department of Education Commissioner Kimberley Harrington, as a part of the state’s 65 by 25 campaign which officially launched in September 2017. With a goal of raising the percentage of New Jersey residents that have a post-secondary credential from the current 50 percent to 65 percent by 2025, the initiative is “helping to ensure an innovative, competitive, inclusive and prosperous future” for New Jersey and promoting collaboration between colleges and universities, businesses, and government officials.


In line with the mission and goals of the state, NCLC, which is housed on the Rutgers University-Newark campus, was launched in 2015 to help Newark become a more economically vibrant city by increasing the number of residents that have education or training beyond high school to 25 percent by 2025. Also like the state-wide initiative, NCLC works with a cross-section of stakeholders from higher education, K-12 schools, corporations, city government, foundations, and non-profit organizations to expand Newark’s college-going culture and develop clear pathways for residents to earn degrees or other credentials.


In attendance to accept the Equity Trailblazer Award on behalf of NCLC was Executive Director Reginald Lewis, who said during his remarks, “In just a few short years, we’ve managed to mobilize an entire city to begin to change a mindset in earnest about what’s possible: that many more residents can aspire to attain college and other post-secondary credentials…which gives us hope that 25 by 2025 remains in reach.”


Acknowledging the many partnerships that make the work of NCLC possible, Mr. Lewis highlighted the main take away for the event: collaboration is key to help make New Jersey a stronger and more equitable state.

Building Newark’s college-going culture | By Reginald Lewis

Building Newark’s college-going culture | By Reginald Lewis

“We have smart children in Newark. We just need a few more resources and the belief that we can all succeed.” 

With those words, Kim Boerrigter, 2017 graduate of Malcom X. Shabazz High School, Harvard University Class of 2021, summed up both Newark’s potential and the challenges the city must overcome so that her success becomes the rule, not the exception.

Recent progress provides hope. In just a few years, the Newark Public Schools’ high school graduation rate rose to 73% from 53%. And more graduates are being accepted to college: 75% of the class of 2017 gained admission to a two- or four-year institution, including Kim and six of her classmates who entered Ivy League institutions this fall.

Still, more work is needed for Newark to approach New Jersey’s statewide graduation rate of 90%. This is the mission of the Newark City of Learning Collaborative (NCLC), which works with the school system, businesses, community organizations, and other partners to build the citywide college-going culture that is crucial to more students enjoying success.

A college-going culture means an environment where every child, regardless of neighborhood, zip code, or high school, is expected to come to school, do well in school, and adequately prepare to succeed at the college level.

The Newark Public Schools and NCLC work together in a range of activities aimed at reaching this goal:

  • College Talk– daily conversations in schools to help students  understand what’s required to stay on track to graduate and on a path that leads to college
  • Expectations– all students are expected to achieve at a high level, with explicit goals for preparation clearly laid out for students and parents
  • Key Resources– up-to-date information about colleges and other post-high school options, like high-quality certification programs, are easily available to all students

A newly created NCLC/NPS position, the Higher Education Liaison, is solely focused on providing students, parents, guidance counselors, teachers, and administrators information and resources related to college that many promising students never obtained before. The partnership with NPS has led to the sponsorship of an annual district-wide college fair, where students and families meet representatives from colleges from around the country. The fair also helps raise awareness and encourage aspirations toward college. The second annual fair, which took place last month, enabled hundreds of students from around the city, including district, charter, county vocational, and parochial, to explore their options beyond high school.

The College Fair is just one way NCLC and NPS provide students and families information needed to make informed decisions about applying to college, financial assistance, and securing a degree or high-quality credential. This past summer, Rutgers University-Newark and eight other colleges joined NCLC in hosting a series of college knowledge workshops around the city, “Secrets to College Admissions,” designed to demystify what can appear as a challenging admissions and financial aid process, particularly the completion of the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Newark’s FAFSA completion rate of 47% underscores the difficulties faced by many families in taking advantage of this resource.

Early college planning is essential for overcoming barriers to college enrollment and completion. Research confirms that having college plans by 10th grade increases the likelihood of attending college by 21%, compared to plans developed during the senior year. Recognizing this, NCLC’s College Pathway Initiative engages students early, while supporting their academic and social-emotional needs. Two-hundred 10th graders, along with young people who have dropped out of school and want to reengage, participate in the initiative.

As promising as these efforts are, establishing a college-going culture in Newark will not happen overnight. Building on progress to date will require the involvement of everyone in the community.  With more of our students graduating from high school and ultimately securing a degree or credential, more Newark residents will be able to get good jobs, support their families, and build a future in a thriving city.