Getting a bachelor's degree at a university such as Rutgers or Fairleigh Dickinson is possible without even stepping on school grounds. Community colleges across New Jersey have programs in place that allow students to extend their education on campus through partnerships with four-year institutions.

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The students stay at their county school, and the professors come to them. Students can get the same quality of education, as well as the same degree, while staying closer to home.

According to Jacob Farbman with the New Jersey Council of County Colleges, this is one of the best kept secrets of New Jersey higher education.

He said most of New Jersey's community colleges have some type of in-house transfer service on hand, providing a convenient and affordable option for students looking to advance beyond an associate's degree.

"It gives students, who can't necessarily commute to school because of the distance, the opportunity to go to their local community college and take programs from the four-year school partners," Farbman said. "And with some of the programs, tuition isn't as much as the four-year school."

In some cases, bigger universities have their own property on community college grounds. Kean University sets up shop in the Gateway Building at Ocean County College.

Rutgers is currently working with five county schools in New Jersey, offering a wide variety of majors for students to choose from.

According to Katherine Birckmayer with Rutgers' Division of Continuing Studies, 817 students are currently enrolled at their off-campus sites of Brookdale, Atlantic Cape, Raritan Valley, Mercer and the County College of Morris, which jumped on board this past fall.

"I think many people are able to complete a degree because this program is offered," Birckmayer said, noting the system was originally designed to accommodate working adult students, but the tough economy has made these programs increasingly appealing to traditional-aged students as well.

And the help from Rutgers doesn't stop in the classroom. Birckmayer said their off-campus students also have equal access to advising, recruiting and career services.

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