Hudson County Community College Named a Finalist for Three National Bellwether Awards

February 23, 2024

Two new programs are named finalists for the prestigious award, while last year’s winner, Hudson Scholars, is recognized again.


February 23, 2024, Jersey City, NJ – In what is becoming an annual tradition at the College, HCCC is a finalist for three prestigious National Bellwether Awards at the upcoming 30th Annual Community College Futures Assembly (CCFA) taking place February 25 to 27, 2024, in San Antonio, Texas.

The nationally competitive awards, presented by the Bellwether College Consortium, recognize trendsetting programs that address critical issues facing community colleges through applicable research and the promotion and replication of best practices. Award categories include Instructional Programs and Services; Workforce Development; and Planning, Governance, and Finance.

HCCC’s “Transformational Learning Pathways Model for Justice-Involved Students” is a finalist in the Instructional Programs and Services category. This cutting-edge program creates pathways for incarcerated, reentry, and court-involved citizens to obtain a degree or industry-recognized credential.


Hudson Scholars Awarding

John Urgola, HCCC Senior Director of Institutional Research and Planning; Dr. Gretchen Schulthes, HCCC Associate Dean for Advisement; Dr. Christopher Reber, HCCC President; Natalie Jimenez, HCCC student and Hudson Scholars participant; and Mackenzie Johnson, Hudson Scholars Academic Counselor pictured at the 2023 Bellwether Awards in San Antonio, Texas, where Hudson Scholars won the National Bellwether Award.  

The HCCC Academic and Workforce Pathways Program (AWPP) provides education and training to incarcerated individuals at the Hudson County Correctional Facility (HCCF). AWPP is one of the only programs in the United States offering a full degree program in a county jail. Students in the program receive personal support from academic coaches, which facilitates the continuation of their coursework upon release.

HCCC partners with the New Jersey Reentry Corporation (NJRC) to provide academic and workforce programs in high-demand sectors like Culinary Arts, Computer Basics, Welding, Phlebotomy, and more, many of which include an industry-recognized credential. Notably, HCCC and NJRC partnered to offer the first phlebotomy training program in New Jersey for justice-involved individuals.

HCCC’s efforts have led to transformative outcomes for justice-involved individuals.  

Academic and Workforce Pathways Program

  • Over 59% of students enrolled have completed a course as of summer 2023.
  • The average collective GPA since the program’s inception is 3.6.
  • In May 2023, two students graduated with an associate degree from HCCC while incarcerated.

New Jersey Reentry Corporation

  • Through 2023, 70% of the 138 students enrolled have completed a course in which they registered.
  • 35 students earned an industry-recognized credential through their chosen program.
  • In spring 2023, HCCC launched a statewide GED preparation program delivered to reentry clients across New Jersey.
  • In summer 2023, HCCC and NJRC expanded their partnership to offer a Summer Training Institute (STI) for more than 200 justice-involved youth.

Training for justice-involved citizens is an integral part of HCCC’s equity work in serving the community. This success is worthy of replication nationwide as research shows that individuals who pursue education, either while incarcerated or upon release, are less likely to return to incarceration.

Meanwhile, HCCC’s “Framework for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Scalable Best Practices” is a finalist in the Bellwether Planning, Governance, and Finance category.

Guided by its two overarching principles of Student Success, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), HCCC is nationally recognized for its DEI best practices. DEI is interwoven into all areas of the College. With Board, executive, and college-wide buy-in, HCCC has transformed its institutional framework, programs, and services by galvanizing community engagement through transparency, community partnerships, and strategic professional development. The inclusive and welcoming environment created by this institution-wide commitment to DEI led HCCC students to coin the College’s slogan, “Hudson is Home,” and it is more than just a motto.

HCCC’s DEI-focused programs and initiatives exemplify how an urban community college can leverage data comprehensively to embrace DEI at an institutional level and create an environment that celebrates diversity in all forms.

Lastly, after winning the 2023 National Bellwether Award for Instructional Programs and Services, HCCC’s Hudson Scholars program is now one of eight finalists for the Bellwether Legacy Award, which is the Bellwether College Consortium’s “most prestigious recognition of a past Bellwether award-winning community college with a remarkably enduring and successful program.  This award is presented to a college with sustained measurable achievements, such as high retention, graduation, transfer, retention, and job placement rates.”

Developed under the leadership of HCCC President Dr. Christopher Reber, Hudson Scholars expands academic access and promotes student success through a four-pillared approach, combining proactive student support, financial stipends, high-impact educational experiences, and early academic intervention.

The Hudson Scholars program is making a major difference in the lives of the more than 2,500 HCCC students who have participated in the program to date. Hudson Scholars has driven a significant increase in student retention and reduced students’ time-to-completion in half, with the most significant impact on students from traditionally underrepresented groups.

  • The Fall-to-Fall retention rates of Hispanic or Latino Hudson Scholars students improved by 46%.
  • The Fall-to-Fall retention rate for African American Hudson Scholars students increased by 83%.
  • The two-year completion rate for students from these groups improved by more than 300% compared to 2018-20.

Students in the Hudson Scholars program, especially those from traditionally underserved groups, are significantly more likely to stay in school and graduate faster.

Further, the Hudson Scholars program is financially sustainable based on the increased student retention facilitated by the program, making it a viable model for other institutions to replicate. This scalability could lead to transformative outcomes for community college students nationwide.

On being named a finalist for three Bellwether Awards, for the second year in a row, Dr. Christopher Reber stated, “Whether it’s programs like Hudson Scholars or our efforts to create pathways for justice-involved individuals, we constantly strive to create better outcomes for the people in the community we serve. We are proud of our accomplishments and excited about the potential for these initiatives to inspire positive change nationwide.”