High Tuition Costs? You Have Options

01/07/2015

Headshot President ArveloWe all want the best for our children.  However, skyrocketing tuition costs can have negative financial implications for parents and families for years to come. As President of Great Bay Community College, I am committed to building public awareness and letting people know that there are options for successfully pursuing higher education without ending up in the poor house. With strategic planning people can have access to a quality education and offset the long term implications of escalating college tuition.

As I visit communities on the Seacoast, I constantly engage with parents who seem to almost be at a loss, accepting their fate that they or their children will be faced with insurmountable student debt. With the national debt for students standing at over $28,000 and in New Hampshire at over $33,000, their concern is certainly justified. In addition, today’s society, seems to have also bought into a limited view of higher education believing that our children are only best served by attending colleges or universities that cost between $30,000 to $50,000 per year. Contrast that with our cost of $6,968 for tuition, fees, and books (before financial aid) and you begin to see the reasons why economically it does not make sense. 

Through my conversations, I try to calm parents and students alike by explaining that they do in fact have choices, and that the idea that the higher the tuition the greater the guarantee of a quality education and career success is in fact a false notion. I encourage each of them to not make a decision about college without first visiting one of New Hampshire’s Community Colleges.

At Great Bay Community College, we have wonderfully gifted faculty, small classes, a wide variety of programs, and great support and customer service. We have strong partnerships with the University System and other colleges that continue to add flexibility to how students choose to achieve their college education. We have numerous transfer agreements with UNH-Durham in such areas as the sciences, business, engineering and the Liberal Arts. Most recently, we unveiled a program called Dual Admissions which allows high school students to be dually admitted to Great Bay and the College of Liberal Arts at UNH.  

To really understand the value of the community college however, I encourage parents and students to talk to other community college parents and students.   

Two parent advocates for Great Bay Community College include Mark Sullivan, CEO of Seacoast Asset Management, and Jay Levy, Senior VP at Measured Wealth. Both successful wealth management professionals, it is likely that each could have sent their kids anywhere to attend College.Yet, they, along with their children chose Great Bay Community College not only because they recognized the quality of education but also because they realized the significant potential for return on investment. 

Both Sullivan and Levy regularly advise clients facing looming college expenses on the dangers of spending retirement funds on their children’s education.  In a recent article, Sullivan encouraged readers to look at the selection of a college as something that is part of a long- term strategy tied to financial, academic and career goals.  “Education and retirement are intertwined when it comes to building an investment strategy” he said.  “Kids can get student loans, but there’s no such thing as a retirement loan.”   

Sullivan and Levy are strong proponents of having students facing large debt start off at a community college. “Community Colleges like Great Bay allow students to not only start off in high quality, low cost programs, but also offer a pathway - they can transfer on to a four year college or university. And for students who have not decided on a career path or can benefit from smaller class sizes, a community college like Great Bay can be the key to success” said Sullivan. 

Levy agrees with Sullivan and brings his own appreciation as a former community college student. As a young man, Levy did not have an immediate direction. He decided to gain some work experience after high school and worked as a writer and circulation manager for a local paper in Florida. He attended Key West Community College and later transferred to Florida Atlantic University. He says this was the appropriate path for him and that attending community college allowed him to mature and decide where he wanted to head after. As an added plus, he came out debt free.

Students and, especially, parents DO have choices. They can explore the option of attending a community college, which today offer education on par with most four-year institutions. They can plan strategically and choose to pursue a quality education that positively impacts their financial future for years to come. 

As students begin the college search process, the message of community colleges being a smart investment resonates even louder and the word is getting out. We see this at our open houses where more high school aged students and their parents are making the rounds. We also hear it in our conversations with high school guidance counselors and principals. If you haven’t visited Great Bay or your local Community College, I strongly encourage you to do so.

Seacoast Online