College offers a real bargain

Friday, August 1, 2003

The back-to-school displays have been up in the stores for weeks now, students are looking forward with dread -- and so are parents, but for different reasons.

While most students are not looking forward to losing the freedom summertime affords, their parents are not looking forward to paying the bills associated with the opening of school.

Notebooks, pencils, athletic shoes, folders, calculators -- not to mention designer jeans and, gulp, even perhaps a school car -- all add up quicker than a boy band goes out of style.

And that's just "free" public school. When it comes time for college, the real shock hits.

It's even worse this year, thanks to the double-pronged attack of tuition hikes and cuts in student aid. It's a sad irony that fewer scholarships will be available at a time when school expenses are being raised to compensate for less government aid to colleges.

"At least 25 states cut higher education funding for the 2003-04 school year," said David L. Wright, a senior research analyst for the State Higher Education Executive Officers, a Denver-based nonprofit group. "Education experts worry that state budget cuts may ultimately price some students out of a higher education, not just at public universities, but also community colleges, which in many places also are registering double-digit spikes in tuition for 2003-04.

"Look for 'many more' states to hike tuition in the 25-30 percent range, compared to last year in which only Massachusetts and South Carolina held that distinction," Will Doyle, senior policy analyst of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education told Pamela Prah of stateline.org.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln raised its tuition 15.6 percent, pushing a year's worth of education to $4,770.50 from $4,125.

All of which make McCook Community College's tuition of $52 per credit hour, or $1,560 per year for a full-time student, all the more attractive. Even at the out-of-state rate of $60, that's only $1,800 for two semesters of college.

And, don't forget, incoming university or state college freshmen are required to live in the college dorm their first year, adding thousands of more dollars to the tab.

Yes, McCook Community College has dorms, but they are not required, and cost a more modest $800 per semester.

Students -- both traditional ones just leaving high school, and those who have been out a while -- haven't missed the fact that MCC is a bargain. During the recent summer session, about 24 more full-time and 31 part-time students took up the college challenge, for a 30.1 campus headcount increase. Officials attribute the increase to a number of factors, including the slow economy and MCC's quality staff as well was attractive tuition.

Unemployed or underemployed? Do you lack a college degree, or have an interest in improving your knowledge or skills in a specific area? If you live anywhere near McCook, you would be wise to check college out this year.

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