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Unconventional college center, ‘Gateway U,’ officially opens campus in N.J.

NJ.com logo NJ.com 8/8/2022 Steve Strunsky, nj.com
Gateway U partners with provides Souther New Hampshire University to provide personalized coaching to students at their facility in Teachers Village in Newark, N.J., Thursday, August 4, 2022 © Ed Murray/nj.com/TNS Gateway U partners with provides Souther New Hampshire University to provide personalized coaching to students at their facility in Teachers Village in Newark, N.J., Thursday, August 4, 2022

Addressing a gathering at Gateway U’s new student center in the Teacher’s Village mixed-use development in Newark, Deja Johnson said she was a senior at Seton Hall University in the Fall of 2017 when her father died, triggering financial and other hardships that kept her from finishing her undergraduate degree in social work.

“Even though I was one semester from graduating, I could not get my degree,” said Johnson, now 26, who then had to put aside plans that included a master’s degree and founding her own childcare center.

Teachers Village in Newark, N.J., Thursday, August 4, 2022 © Ed Murray/nj.com/TNS Teachers Village in Newark, N.J., Thursday, August 4, 2022

But Johnson, a Newark native now living in Queens, New York, is back on track to earn her bachelor’s degree, this time through Gateway U, a higher-education hybrid learning institution launched last year to provide students from Newark and the surrounding area with undergraduate educations and diplomas. Gateway U also helps make sure they can pay for and complete their degrees and then go on to make the most of them in the workforce.

Saymah Nah, Gateway U executive director speaks at grand opening. Gateway U partners with provides Souther New Hampshire University to provide personalized coaching to students at their facility in Teachers Village in Newark, N.J., Thursday, August 4, 2022 © Ed Murray/nj.com/TNS Saymah Nah, Gateway U executive director speaks at grand opening. Gateway U partners with provides Souther New Hampshire University to provide personalized coaching to students at their facility in Teachers Village in Newark, N.J., Thursday, August 4, 2022

Gateway U was created by the Brick Education Network, a non-profit organization that runs the Achieve Community and Marion P. Thomas charter schools, and education and family-related service organizations.

Gateway U is not an accredited college, but rather a kind of education broker-plus, providing students with financial aid guidance, career counseling and post-graduation monitoring and networking, and other services not directly related to academics.

Gateway U’s academic affiliate is Southern New Hampshire University, a brick-and-mortar institution in Manchester, New Hampshire, accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

SUNH provides Gateway with online faculty, curriculum and other academic resources, and the degrees that students enrolled through Gateway U receive will be conferred by the university.

Developer Ron Beit in Teachers Village that he built. Gateway U partners with provides Souther New Hampshire University to provide personalized coaching to students at their facility in Teachers Village in Newark, N.J., Thursday, August 4, 2022 © Ed Murray/nj.com/TNS Developer Ron Beit in Teachers Village that he built. Gateway U partners with provides Souther New Hampshire University to provide personalized coaching to students at their facility in Teachers Village in Newark, N.J., Thursday, August 4, 2022

“Community partnerships, like this one with Gateway U, blend the low-cost flexibility of SNHU’s online, competency-based education with face-to-face support from trusted organizations working directly in the community offering customized support specific to each geographic location and student,” school spokeswoman Siobhan Lopez told NJ Advance Media.

“We’re proud to work with Gateway U in Newark to further SNHU’s mission of transforming the lives of learners by expanding access to higher education.”

One thing Gateway U provides is a 4,000 square foot ground floor student center, or “campus,” on Treat Place, where officials held a ribbon cutting ceremony under Thursday’s blistering sun. The facility includes an outdoor courtyard, a lounge — with ping-pong table — offices, a small lecture hall, a kitchen, and other space, where students seeking online degrees can go for in-person interaction with counselors, administrators and each other.

Gateway U partners with provides Souther New Hampshire University to provide personalized coaching to students at their facility in Teachers Village in Newark, N.J., Thursday, August 4, 2022 © Ed Murray/nj.com/TNS Gateway U partners with provides Souther New Hampshire University to provide personalized coaching to students at their facility in Teachers Village in Newark, N.J., Thursday, August 4, 2022

“Those students who go to school online, they often feel alone,” said Saymah Nah, Gateway U’s executive director. “What they’ve been saying is, we want to come in.”

Gateway U offers bachelor’s degrees in Management, with concentrations in insurance services, logistics and operations, and public administration. There is also an associate’s degree in business. Nah said Gateway began classes in October, and now has 50 students enrolled, with an additional 25 registered to begin this fall.

Tuition and fees for a full course-load totals $2,332 per trimester. However, the institution works with students to obtain federal Pell grants. Gateway trustee Dominique Lee noted that the net cost for student would be as low as $168 per trimester depending on the size of their annual grant.

Walking through Teachers Village in Newark, N.J., Thursday, August 4, 2022 © Ed Murray/nj.com/TNS Walking through Teachers Village in Newark, N.J., Thursday, August 4, 2022

Gateway U is a welcome addition to Teachers Village for a couple of reasons, said Ron Beit, president of RBH Group, developer of the gradually maturing mixed-used enclave, which broke ground in 2012.

Saymah Nah, Gateway U executive director after cutting the ribbon. speaks at grand opening. Gateway U partners with provides Souther New Hampshire University to provide personalized coaching to students at their facility in Teachers Village in Newark, N.J., Thursday, August 4, 2022 © Ed Murray/nj.com/TNS Saymah Nah, Gateway U executive director after cutting the ribbon. speaks at grand opening. Gateway U partners with provides Souther New Hampshire University to provide personalized coaching to students at their facility in Teachers Village in Newark, N.J., Thursday, August 4, 2022

Teachers Village is a collection of buildings totaling 400,000 square feet in a 5-square-block area just east of Broad Street, parallel to the Prudential Center arena. The enclave has both a unified and organic feel, made up of newly constructed buildings interspersed among existing structures. The new ones were by the design firm of Newark native Richard Meier, the Pritzker Prize-winning architect of the Getty Center in Los Angeles and Spain’s Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, with Meier’s signature elements of white surfaces with grid-like patterns.

All 203 apartments at Teachers Villages are rented or in transition, three-quarters of them to educators, who are given preference when a new unit opens up, said Beit, who attended Thursday’s ribbon cutting, along with Newark City Council President LaMonica McIver and three of her council colleagues.

Inside looking out. Gateway U partners with provides Souther New Hampshire University to provide personalized coaching to students at their facility in Teachers Village in Newark, N.J., Thursday, August 4, 2022 © Ed Murray/nj.com/TNS Inside looking out. Gateway U partners with provides Souther New Hampshire University to provide personalized coaching to students at their facility in Teachers Village in Newark, N.J., Thursday, August 4, 2022

But about a third of the project’s 65,000 square feet of commercial space remains vacant five years after RBH finished building the $150 million complex, 92% of it built on vacant space formerly occupied by parking lots.

“It’s been a difficult environment generally in Newark,” Beit said, adding that the coronavirus pandemic only aggravated the historical challenges of attracting commercial tenants to the city.

Ping pong table in common area. Gateway U partners with provides Souther New Hampshire University to provide personalized coaching to students at their facility in Teachers Village in Newark, N.J., Thursday, August 4, 2022 © Ed Murray/nj.com/TNS Ping pong table in common area. Gateway U partners with provides Souther New Hampshire University to provide personalized coaching to students at their facility in Teachers Village in Newark, N.J., Thursday, August 4, 2022

So the addition of Gateway U is not only consistent with Teachers Village’s goal of creating a neighborhood friendly to educators and what they do, it’s also a major tenant. “They do everything we want,” Beit added. “They’re just a great partner for us.”

Apart from its education theme, Beit is proud of the largely home-grown, independent nature of the development’s tenants. Out of dozen leased spaces, 11 of them are to minority-owned businesses, with nine of them women-owned, including the Bella Nail Lounge and Beauty Bar, an early tenant starting in 2017 that remains in business today.

Residential building in Teachers Village in Newark, N.J., Thursday, August 4, 2022 © Ed Murray/nj.com/TNS Residential building in Teachers Village in Newark, N.J., Thursday, August 4, 2022

And Teachers Village is not quite finished, Beit said.

RBH will break ground later this year on “Teachers Village Plus” projects in Atlanta and Chicago, which will both include senior residences. And in Newark, Beit said RBH is planning a seventh building, at 280 Halsey St., a 13-story tower where all 175 apartments will be reserved for senior citizens.

Saymah Nah, Gateway U executive director speaks at grand opening. Gateway U partners with provides Souther New Hampshire University to provide personalized coaching to students at their facility in Teachers Village in Newark, N.J., Thursday, August 4, 2022 © Ed Murray/nj.com/TNS Saymah Nah, Gateway U executive director speaks at grand opening. Gateway U partners with provides Souther New Hampshire University to provide personalized coaching to students at their facility in Teachers Village in Newark, N.J., Thursday, August 4, 2022

“That’s the ‘plus’ for Newark,” Beit said.

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Steve Strunsky may be reached at sstrunsky@njadvancemedia.com

Gateway U partners with provides Souther New Hampshire University to provide personalized coaching to students at their facility in Teachers Village in Newark, N.J., Thursday, August 4, 2022 © Ed Murray/nj.com/TNS Gateway U partners with provides Souther New Hampshire University to provide personalized coaching to students at their facility in Teachers Village in Newark, N.J., Thursday, August 4, 2022

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