An alternative to universities

Published 10:08 pm Thursday, March 22, 2012

With college tuition costs rising precipitously during the past 10 years, alternatives to the traditional four-year university degree are looking more and more attractive to the average American family.

Since 2000, the average cost of a four-year degree from a public university has risen by about 40 percent, according to the Institute for Education Sciences. The increase in costs at private institutions has been smaller, about 21 percent, but a family will pay more than twice as much to put a student through four years of a private college, compared to a public one.

In 2010, a year of tuition, room and board at a public university cost about $14,870. At a four-year private college, the same year of education cost an average of $32,475. For a four-year degree, imagine multiplying those numbers by four and factoring in ever-increasing fees and tuition. And if your family has more than one student headed off to earn a degree, the collective sacrifice that must be made by parents and students can be staggering.


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That’s one reason community colleges are such a good deal. More and more American students are realizing the benefit of spending a year or two in a community college before moving on to get their four-year degree from a traditional university. Community college tuition is lower than that of the university, and a student can save on the costs of room and board by staying in the parents’ home while attending school nearby.

And schools like Paul D. Camp Community College are working harder than ever to make themselves relevant and attractive to the people in the communities they serve. Paul D. Camp, in fact, has seen a 35-percent increase in full-time enrollment during the past five years, largely on the strength of all that hard work.

There have been technology upgrades in classrooms, some of which also have received cosmetic renovations to make them more welcoming to students. And the school recently unveiled a new website designed to give a better user experience.

Without scholarships or significant financial aid, college degrees backed by four years of a traditional university are quickly becoming unaffordable for many Americans. Fortunately, Paul D. Camp and Virginia’s other community colleges are responding to the demand for an alternative, and they’re doing so with great success.