Alliances between four-year colleges and community colleges are becoming common, said Thomas Bailey, director of the Community College Research Center at Columbia University in New York City.
"There is a fairly strong movement for community colleges to grant bachelor degrees," Bailey said. "But this cross-state arrangement is unusual."
Community colleges generally are accredited to confer only two-year associate's degrees.
The arrangement raises to four the number of schools in South Jersey where a student can get a four-year degree. The others are Rutgers-Camden, Rowan and Richard Stockton, all state universities.
Students in the BCC program will earn a Drexel degree at a great discount. Tuition at the West Philadelphia university is $28,300 per year - and that's before room, board and other expenses ratchet annual costs to more than $40,000.
Students enrolled in the BCC program will pay community college tuition rates - about $2,000 a year - during their freshman and sophomore years.
The partnership also will allow Drexel to admit more students. And although students will have the option of taking classes on Drexel's main Philadelphia campus, many will never have to cross the river, Papadakis said.
"We think the program can handle maybe a couple of hundred students. That's what we're planning on," said Robert C. Messina Jr., president of BCC.
Messina said the program would benefit mostly older students who cannot travel to a major university because of job or family commitments.
"This is going to be a very cost-effective program," he said.
The schools already had an agreement under which BCC students were guaranteed a "seamless" transfer to Drexel if they maintained a 2.5 grade-point average, or 2.75 for engineering majors.
Classes in the new program will be taught by Drexel faculty and will match the content and quality of those taught at the main campus, Papadakis said.
Starting in September, Drexel will offer bachelor of science programs at BCC in culinary arts, construction management, hospital management and computing technology, as well as in manufacturing, electrical and mechanical engineering. Course offerings will expand in 2007 to include degrees in biology and biological sciences. Degrees in four more engineering specialties will be added in 2008, Papadakis said.
The arrangement - "one of the first of its kind," Papadakis said - brings advantages to both Drexel and BCC. Drexel increases enrollment without having to spend millions on additional buildings and other infrastructure. BCC will be able to recruit more qualified students and "piggyback on Drexel's brand," Papadakis said.
Prospective students will apply to Burlington County College, where a representative from Drexel will help determine who is appropriate for the program, Papadakis said.
They will be required to maintain a B average, but there will be "no special tests" between the sophomore and junior years, Papadakis said. "The transition will be seamless."
Earl Hale, director of the state board for community and technical colleges in Olympia, Wash., said Drexel's arrangement with BCC fit into a national trend.
"Frankly, I think it's inevitable you're going to see more of these partnerships," Hale said. "You have to get the programs to where the students are. And in an era of tight budgets and increased demand, this is probably a good way of doing it."
Contact staff writer Sam Wood at 856-779-3838 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.