Getting To Know The College of New Jersey-Again
The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) has cracked my ‘Public Ivy’ list for the past five admissions cycles, even as I kept updating my criteria for making a public college a Public Ivy. A Public Ivy, in my view, gives all students good value for their money, while also guiding them successfully to a degree and future direction as well as a network for life. There are a few public schools that have been more successful than TCNJ. But they are mostly larger, far more expensive and much more selective for all prospective students.
While The College of New Jersey is a selective public institution, it is largely undergraduate focused.
Nearly 90 percent of TCNJ students are pursuing a bachelors degree. I invite you to check out my Pinterest page for this school. I also did an interview with Lisa Angeloni, Vice President for Enrollment Management that you must check outl Lisa is one of the best, and also one of the most candid, enrollment managers that I have met.
The College of New Jersey is a Public Ivy for the value and student success.
On average, according to institutional research, TCNJ retained 94 percent of every freshman class that has entered since 2013. The four-year graduation rates for each class that entered between 2012 and 2015 was 76 percent. Only six other public colleges and universities in the US have done better at graduating their students on time. Most recently, the college also launched opportunities for well-prepared Criminology, English and Psychology majors to graduate in three years.
You won’t be in any large-lecture classes as you might at Rutgers, or even schools like Lehigh that have extremely competitive business and engineering programs. Eighty percent of all classes taught in 2020-21 had 30 or fewer students. Only three had more than 50.
TCNJ is not an “ultra-selective” institution.
This school’s “sweet spot” is the A-/1250+ SAT/28+ ACT student. Sixty-two percent of applicants for the Class of 2025 were accepted. The acceptance rate through Early Decision was 79 percent, though those students made up only a quarter of the class. The College’s admissions team will consider talent combined with the student’s academic record. But some programs will have more competitive admissions including Biological Sciences, Business, Engineering, Health and Exercise Science, Special Education, and Education for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
So far, freshman retention under test-optional admissions has remained the same.
The college went test-optional for the visual arts, performing arts and music programs before the pandemic. But it went test-optional for all except Bachelors-MD applicants beginning with the Class of 2024. Eighty-eight percent of incoming freshmen in the Class of 2024 submitted SAT scores. However, this dropped to 42 percent for the Class of 2025.
But while test scores might be less important for admissions than they are at more selective public and private colleges, I would recommend that applicants who scored 600 or better on each section of the SAT or 28 or better on each section of the ACT submit them to TCNJ. Students who apply for the 7-Year Medical/Optometry Program, and are accepted, typically score over 1500 on the SAT or over 33 on the ACT.
TCNJ takes different twists to help undeclared students.
Incoming freshmen can choose to enter six of the seven undergraduate schools, except the School of Nursing and Health Sciences, undeclared, or begin their education outside of those six schools, working with a student success advisor as an Undeclared-General major, among the popular choices for incoming freshmen.
This is a nice approach for students who are undecided between similar opportunities in the different schools. But they must use the freshman year to prepare for every opportunity they might want. A student undecided between, for example, engineering and a science or business and a social science, must take and do well in the introductory courses for both. However, it is less difficult to enter the school of your choice at TCNJ than it might be at a much larger school. It’s also much easier to get a minor in the business subjects, and also the engineering fields, than it is at a larger state school.
TCNJ is one of the most ambitious colleges, public or private, that I have covered since I started Educated Quest.
Some of the ambitions have been academic.
These include the launch of 4+1 bachelors-masters programs in public health and public policy. These go along with 4+1 offerings in the School of Education as well as a Bachelors-MD partnership with Rutgers and a new Bachelors-JD partnership with Villanova Law School.
The seven-year Bachelors-MD program is unique in that students may choose from several undergraduate majors, including Computer Science, Economics and three engineering programs as well as Biology and Chemistry. While several New Jersey colleges offer the Bachelors-MD, TCNJ offers the most academic options and welcomes the second largest cohort after Rutgers’ main campus.
The law school partnership offers accepted TCNJ juniors an opportunity to begin law school a year early, receiving a full-tuition scholarship.. Seniors are also invited to apply for half-tuition awards.
The college engaged in an ambitious public-private partnership to construct Campus Town.
This is a mix of “downtown college town” stores and student apartments. I have been to only one other school, the University of Connecticut, that partnered on a similarly ambitious venture. The major difference: TCNJ relocated the campus book store and fitness center to Campus Town to build student traffic to the other shopping options.
Outside of Campus Town, there have been major investments in renovations and new construction for academic and residential buildings. The outdoor athletic facilities are among the nicest that you will find at a D-3 public college. This school has also, in my view, been a national model for accessibility for the physically disabled.
Plan out your housing and transportation costs over four years.
Apartments in Campus Town are quite pricy. So are apartments in The Point, a complex targeted to students from TCNJ and nearby Rider University. There are actually around 10,000 undergraduate college students in the area, counting the students at Rider and TCNJ, which helps to drive up rents. Most TCNJ students move off campus share houses across from the entrances to the school, which can be the least cost option. About a fifth are involved in Greek social life, though none of the Greek organizations own their own houses.
Access to a car really helps, even if you just want to go shopping in Princeton or a grocery store or you need a lift to the train to New York or Philadelphia. Freshmen are not allowed to have cars on campus without permission related to accessibility around campus or to off-campus jobs. Parking is relatively easy for all other resident students.
The only remotely similar public college is The College of William & Mary (VA).
William & Mary is also one of only six public colleges that do better at graduating a freshman class. But William & Mary also has history on its side. It is the second-oldest college in America (after Harvard) and has historically attracted about a third of its students from other states, including New Jersey. While one might believe that TCNJ has 18th or 19th century roots if they visited campus, the college has been at its current location only since 1935.
TCNJ has about 300 more undergrads (6,800 vs. 6,500). Both schools offer about the same number of majors. The College of William & Mary offers 54. TCNJ offers 50. However, the College of William & Mary also has nearly 3,000 graduate and professional students. It also has well-established graduate schools of business, education and marine science as well as a law school. William & Mary also participates in NCAA D-1 varsity scholarship sports while TCNJ athletics are D-3 with no scholarships.
But William & Mary is also far more expensive than TCNJ.
William & Mary charges Virginia residents about the same as TCNJ now charges non-residents for all direct charges while TCNJ has largely been a “New Jersey college” through its history. At present, only five percent of TCNJ’s undergraduate student body comes from other states. But the college recently reset out-of-state tuition and fees to just under $24,000. Merit and need-based scholarships lower those charges even further.
New Jersey residents faced an estimated total cost of attendance of around $38,000. That’s high versus resident charges of other state schools, excluding William & Mary. But a New Jersey resident who could get into both schools would pay less for a TCNJ education, including tuition, fees, room and board, books personal expenses and transportation, than they would pay for non-resident tuition and fees alone at William & Mary.
TCNJ has a short history under its current identity.
Formerly known as Trenton State College, this school did not graduate the first freshman class admitted under its current name until 1996. The school has nearly 33,000 alumni in an around New York City and nearly 9,800 in and around Philadelphia, based on registrations in LinkedIn.com. Those are very large communities for a school that was mainly a public teacher’s college for over a century.
But one important point: graduates of the first classes under The College of New Jersey have advanced into more influential positions to better enable them to support the current students and their alma mater as well as bring the next generation, including their own children, to campus.
TCNJ is a rare public institution. It has become that way because of three visionary presidents, including the current one, Dr. Kathryn Foster, and because New Jersey’s state government has given public college presidents and trustees considerable autonomy to set the strategic directions for their schools.
I have named TCNJ as a Public Ivy not only for costs, retention and graduation rates—but also because you do not need to be in a special honors program to get a more personal education.. While there’s varying degrees of competition for admission to degree programs, any TCNJ student can work with the faculty, staff and services to make the experience their own.
I likened TCNJ to William & Mary, a school that has more history, but the New Jersey school is no less focused on the undergraduate. Private schools that have a similar vibe, in my view: Elon University (NC), Lehigh University (PA) and Villanova University (PA), all quite popular with statistically similar college-bound students from New Jersey. But when affordability is less of an issue for a family, TCNJ is not as well known outside of New Jersey, New York City and the Philadelphia metro area as those other schools.
If I was applying to college in 2022 I would borrow the car from my parents to consider TCNJ versus Rutgers, presuming both schools accepted me. I would have a very difficult decision to make.
Report Card: The College of New Jersey
- Four-Year/Six-Year Graduation Rates: A
- Freshman Retention: A
- Costs: B (residents)/A (non-residents)
- Curriculum: A
- Community: B+
- Comforts: B+
- Connections: A (NYC and Philadelphia)/C (elsewhere)
Want to know more about me?
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