Because their main job appears to be giving your kids the education the billions of dollars we throw at the Abbott districts doesn’t give them.
Essex County College President Gale Gibson is known to march from office to office with a poster-sized board under her arm.
With crushed corners and tears, the well-worn board makes one thing clear: ECC ranks at the bottom of New Jersey’s 19 county colleges as far as graduation and retention rates.
Gibson — who was appointed interim college president in April and confirmed as president Oct. 15 by the board of trustees — has made boosting ECC’s rank her top mission and has laid out an ambitious five-year plan.
“There’s no place for Essex County College to go but up,” Gibson said in an interview. “I see the college in a better place in five years and if it isn’t I shouldn’t be sitting in this chair. It cannot remain where it is right now.”
The numbers on the ranking chart paint a stark picture: 5 percent of full-time ECC students who began in fall 2007 graduate within three years and just 46 percent of students who began in fall 2009 returned in fall 2010.
But inching up the rankings means overcoming major academic challenges — especially at a college where an alarming number of students arrive unprepared for college level work from Newark, East Orange, Irvington and nearby towns. About 90 percent of students take at least one remedial course and 80 percent of students enroll in at least two.
Newark receives more than $672 million of our tax dollars in education funding. East Orange garners $170 million, and Irvington gets $106 million. Add in $63 million for the City of Orange and that’s more than a billion dollars a year to subsidize a public school system which graduates a crop of students who are utterly unprepared for the rigors of community college.