New Jersey Higher Education Secretary Touts Economic Returns of College Degree at 2019 Meadowlands Education Summit

Contact: Ilene Greenfield
Director of Media Relations
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College Presidents Discuss Importance of Partnerships with
Business and Industry at 2019 Meadowlands Education Summit

Berkeley College

(See caption below.)

Share the News: @BerkeleyCollege @MR_Chamber @SecSmithEllis @PrezBerkeley

The Secretary of the New Jersey Department of Higher Education reinforced the value of a college degree for economic mobility during her keynote address at the Meadowlands Education Summit on February 5, 2019.

“People still value higher education,” said Secretary Zakiya Smith Ellis during the annual Summit, hosted by the Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce at Ramapo College of New Jersey in Mahwah. “The economic returns are worth it.”

Secretary Smith Ellis said that the economic returns of higher education have grown more in the Garden State than they have nationally. According to a 2017 study by the U.S. Census Bureau, the median annual income of a student with a Bachelor’s degree in New Jersey was $11,000 more than the national median.

Secretary Smith Ellis also spoke about the importance of internships and experiential learning to students looking to secure a career in their fields of study, as well as the value to businesses looking for fresh talent.

“We need learning experiences that are similar to work experiences,” she said. “When you are able to apply what you are learning, it helps you learn better.”

Presidents and administrators from Berkeley College, Bergen Community College, Eastwick College, Felician University, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Ramapo College and Saint Peter’s University discussed trends in education, including the need for soft skills such as communication and teamwork that translate to careers of the future.

“The soft skills we teach our students today are skills that will continue to serve them well throughout their careers,” said Michael J. Smith, President of Berkeley College.

Berkeley College

Photo Caption: (Top) Zakiya Smith Ellis, Secretary, New Jersey Department of Higher Education, speaks about the importance of a college degree and the value of experiential learning during the Meadowlands Education Summit, hosted by the Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce at Ramapo College of New Jersey in Mahwah on February 5, 2019. (Above, L to R) Moderator Tammy Molinelli, Bergen County Workforce Development Board, leads a discussion among Peter P. Mercer, JD, PhD, President, Ramapo College; Thomas Eastwick, President, Eastwick College and HoHoKus Schools; Luke Schultheis, PhD, Vice President, Enrollment, Planning and Effectiveness, Fairleigh Dickinson University; Francine Andrea, Vice President, Administration, Felician University; Michael J. Smith, President of Berkeley College; Virginia Bender, Assistant to the President for Planning and Chief of Staff, Saint Peter’s University; and Michael Redmond, PhD, President, Bergen Community College.

The panel reinforced that curriculum design must happen with business and industry at the table to ensure students remain on the cutting-edge of career development.

“We must work with the business community because a strong, effective and educated workforce is beneficial to all of our graduates and is beneficial to the vibrancy of New Jersey,” President Smith said.

“You have my commitment to continue this dialogue,” said Jim Kirkos, President and CEO, Meadowlands Chamber of Commerce. “Our economy depends on it. Our businesses depend on it.”

Berkeley College

Photo Caption: (Left, L to R) Teri Duda, Senior Vice President, Government Relations; Aisha Dubose of West Orange, Berkeley College student; Zakiya Smith Ellis, Secretary, New Jersey Department of Higher Education; Niurka Pelaez of Passaic, Berkeley College student; and Angela Harrington, Vice President, Communications and External Relations, Berkeley College, at the Meadowlands Education Summit, hosted by the Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce at Ramapo College of New Jersey in Mahwah on February 5, 2019. (Right) Secretary Smith Ellis delivers the keynote address at the Education Summit (Photo Courtesy: Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce).

Berkeley College

Photo Caption: (Left, L to R) Michael J. Smith, President of Berkeley College; Berkeley College students Aisha Dubose of West Orange and Niurka Pelaez of Passaic; and Marsha Pollard, PhD, Provost of Berkeley College. 

About Berkeley College

A leader in providing career-focused education since 1931, Berkeley College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and enrolls more than 7,000 students – including more than 350 international students – in its Master’s, Bachelor’s and Associate’s degree and Certificate programs. Students can study in more than 20 career fields. Berkeley College is comprised of the Larry L. Luing School of Business®, the School of Professional Studies, the School of Health Studies, and the School of Liberal Arts. The School of Graduate Studies offers an MBA in Management online and in Woodland Park, NJ.


Berkeley College has four New Jersey campuses – Newark, Paramus, Woodbridge and Woodland Park. In New York there are three campuses – Midtown Manhattan, Brooklyn and White Plains. Berkeley College Online® serves a global population. For six consecutive years, U.S. News & World Report has named Berkeley College among the Best Colleges for Online Bachelor’s Programs and among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Veterans. The website address is


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