By Stephanie Careterro
Getting accepted to the school of your dreams is your reward for the hard work you did in high school. Being able to afford the college of your choice is a different story, especially if the student doesn’t want to spend years paying off loans. Retired community college counselor Kathleen Frizzell agrees that attending community college is a more economical option. “For some students, that is the only option because their family is not financially stable.” According to The Institute for College Access and Success, “graduating seniors who ever received a Pell Grant, 88% had student loans in 2012, with an average of $31,200 per borrower.
In contrast, 53% of those who never received a Pell Grant had debt, with an average of $26,450 per borrower — $4,750 less than the average debt for Pell recipients with debt.” Although low-income students receive more federal aid, it does not always mean it is enough. A significant reason why students decide to attend community college is due to the high cost of attending a traditional four-year college. The College Board reports that, “In Fall 2014, 42% of all and 25% of full-time undergraduate students were enrolled in community college.”
There are institutions that have taken an initiative to help underfunded students. Jessica Zuluaga, a transfer student, states many organizations “have plenty of resources that can help you financially. I was lucky enough to be part of the STAR scholarship, which paid for my school and even my books!” She is transferring from community college to St. Xavier University, enrolling in the fall of 2018 with zero debt (see page 7 for Star Scholarship details).
It is important for community college students to research and be aware of the prerequisite classes that will be required for their chosen program at the university to which they will transfer. Once enrolled in community college, it is necessary for the student to do exceptionally well in all classes. Only having two years before transferring, it is crucial not to fall behind because it is harder to reach exceptional grades. Similar to senior year of high school, part of the time at community college will consist of going through the application process. Although this is a considerable amount of work, hard working and persevering students take those steps to have a free or low debt education that benefits them in the long run.