Update: The College of New Jersey
I attended the recent open house at the College of New Jersey (TCNJ) , so that I could keep to date on their academic programs, and provide new insights. I also invite you to look at my Pinterest page for this school.
With over 6,800 full-time undergraduates, The College of New Jersey is the primary public small school alternative to Rutgers-New Brunswick among New Jersey’s best and brightest college-bound students. Once considered a commuter school, TCNJ now houses 90 percent of its freshmen as well as more than half of all undergraduates on campus. There is only one public college that I have visited (SUNY-Geneseo) that is even remotely like TCNJ in terms of its emphasis on undergraduate education and student success. TCNJ is considered versus other private mid-sized schools such as Lehigh and Villanova as well as larger universities. But those schools are also trying to attract more graduate and professional students. Undergraduates make up more than 90 percent of TCNJ’s student body.
TCNJ graduated 76 percent of the freshmen who entered in 2012. Only four other public schools, all larger and more selective, did better: the University of Michigan, University of Virginia, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and the College of William and Mary. TCNJ has also retained at least 93 percent of its freshmen classes for each of the past ten years, excellent for any school of any size.
While the estimated total resident cost of attendance is $36,000, high for a state school, it is far less than tuition and fees alone for a school such as Lehigh or Villanova. The average merit award for residents is roughly $4,000 per year, according to the college. The estimate for a non-resident is higher at $48,000, also less than the private schools charge for tuition and fees alone. Non-residents can qualify for scholarships between $8,000 and $12,000 that are relatively easy to keep.
Admitted students should consider housing costs over four years. Apartments in Campus Town, the residential/retail development next to the college are quite pricy. So are apartments in The Point a complex targeted to students from TCNJ and nearby Rider University. Most students who want to move off campus after the sophomore year share houses across from the entrances to the school, the least cost option.
If TCNJ is the school that you want, and you live in New Jersey, apply early. The same is true if you come from another state, and qualify for their non-resident scholarships. So do those who want a seat in the 7-Year Medical/Optometry Program. TCNJ is one the few public colleges that uses two Early Decision admissions periods to consider candidates, although the college gets less than 30 percent of a freshman class via this route. However, 60 percent of the students who applied Early Decision were accepted. When Early Decision and Regular Decision are combined, half got in. Only eight applicants were admitted off the wait list.
The middle 50 percent of the class that arrived at TCNJ last fall scored between 1160 and 1350 on the SAT, and between 25 and 30 on the ACT. Students who apply for the 7-Year Medical/Optometry Program, and are accepted, score over 1500 on the SAT or over 33 on the ACT. TCNJ is test-optional for students who are interested in one of these creative fields: art, music and interactive multimedia. The College’s admissions team will consider talent combined with the student’s academic record. These programs will have more competitive admissions than most others offered by the college as will Biological Sciences, Business, Engineering, Health and Exercise Science, Special Education, and Education for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
Since my last update TCNJ brought back a major in Speech Pathology and Audiology, but those intent on working in the field must go on to a masters degree. The college has also updated its Urban Teacher Education program and offers some unique options in Engineering Science as well as a K12 Technology/Pre-Engineering Education program that you are not likely to find at too many other schools. 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.
I have lived near TCNJ for 16 years, and have seen most of the initial negatives about the school go away. The college has continually renovated academic buildings—the School of Education was the latest renovation that I saw—and is replacing the aging freshman halls: Travers and Wolfe. There’s plenty of parking on this campus for everyone, except resident freshmen, who cannot have a car on campus on a day to day basis. While Campus Town has a nice Panera and several dining options, it also has vacancies. TCNJ has Greek life, but no formal Greek houses, as you will find at Rutgers, among other schools. Access to a car really helps, even if you just want to go shopping or need a lift to the train station.
TCNJ has another disadvantage: 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 over 26,000 alumni in an around New York City and more than 8,000 in and around Philadelphia, based on registrations in LinkedIn.com. But the base drops off considerably after that. The third largest community, based in and around Washington DC, has fewer than 800 members.
I have named TCNJ as a Public Ivy for the past two years not only for the reasons that I designated other schools—costs and graduation rates—but also because you do not need to be in a special honors program to get a more personal education than you would within a school like Rutgers-New Brunswick. While there’s varying degrees of competition for admission to degree programs, any TCNJ student can work with the faculty and services to make the experience their own.
If I was applying to college in 2019 I would be borrowing the car from my parents to consider TCNJ versus Rutgers-New Brunswick, 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)
Need help in considering and comparing colleges? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 609-406-0062.
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