With one exception for an event at the Grunin Center I have not been on the campus of Ocean County College in quite some time.

As a matter of fact the last time I really walked from one end to the other was likely in May of 2008 when I received an honorary Associate in Arts degree and had the opportunity to speak during commencement ceremonies.  At that time I remarked that the college had changed dramatically from the school I first attended in the fall of 1973.

Flash forward to yesterday when I had a meeting at OCC and found myself in awe of what has taken place in the last decade or so. Construction and expansion dominate the campus and gone is the student center where I spent far too much time.

Not too far away is the sprawling Jon and Judith Larson Student Center, named appropriately after the longtime college president and his wife.  Several projects are underway and in the rear of the campus you can’t help but notice the construction of the Jay and Linda Grunin Performing Arts Academy which when completed early next year will house the Ocean County Vocational Technical School program that is now located in Lakehurst at the Joint Base.

The new Student Center at Ocean County College (Kevin Williams, Townsquare Media NJ)

The PAA is a four-year public high school and in becoming part of the OCC campus students will not only be able to graduate with a high school diploma but also an associate degree from the college.

Everything about the college speaks of growth and opportunity and that includes the partnership with Kean University which allows students to get a four-year degree without ever leaving the county.  In today’s day and age this is a tremendous opportunity and one more students will likely take advantage of as college costs continue to spiral at alarming rates.

The Kean-Ocean partnership means that students could get a four-year degree in one location for less than what many students are paying for one year at many colleges and universities.

It is truly amazing to see what has taken place off Hooper Avenue in Toms River and there is no question that OCC has come a long way from the school I first attended some 46 years ago.

I look forward to seeing what the future brings to Ocean County College.

Ocean County College (Kevin Williams, Townsquare Media NJ)