Kansas students have alternatives to big school costs

As the Class of 2009 leaves the nation’s universities for the world of work only one in five graduates has a job waiting. A good many will find themselves back in their parents’ homes waiting for the economy to revive.
Not only will that unemployed 80 percent be without an income, most also will face payments on the money they borrowed to pay for the degree they earned.
Kansas families with offspring in a state university, or headed that way in the fall, must absorb this unsettling information along with the announcement that tuition will increase at the University of Kansas and many other public and private colleges and universities.
KU says it must in-crease tuition because the Legislature cut its funding by 10 percent and the alternative would require unacceptable cutbacks in eduational quality.
University officials are quick to say that low-income students will continue to be offered assistance and that the higher tuition will be charged mostly to those who can afford it. All six of our regents universities have generous policies that allow students who are succeeding academically to continue their educations, regardless of their ability to pay. But this largess is largely limited to students who were in the upper 20 percent of their high school classes and have been urged by counselors and others to continue their educations.
Those hurt most come from middle income families who don’t qualify for assistance and must borrow to pay tuition and living expenses. They graduate with a five-figure debt to pay. In a sour economy, the debt continues to grow even while job opportunities diminish.
As these factors combine to discourage enrollment in universities, community colleges provide an inexpensive and effective alternative. The biggest expense most students face in continuing their education is the cost of room and board away from home. Students who can stay at home while completing their freshman and sophomore studies at a community college often can earn enough at a part-time job to get a head start on the cost of their four-year degree.
Years of statistics show that graduates from ACCC do as well in their junior years at regents universities as do those who started their college careers at a four-year school.
In lean years like these, students and their families should take full advantage of the savings and the educational quality that community colleges offer.

— Emerson Lynn, jr.