Staving Off Student Debt with Community Colleges
Not all students can say they attend a prestigious university—for half the cost. But Jessica Valverde can, though her path was not so prestigious.
In December 2011 Valverde graduated from Miami Dade College, a leading community college that offers two-year and four-year programs. Pennsylvania State University accepted her for the fall and she made the decision to transfer in the summer.
Now she attends Penn State and is majoring in international politics with a minor in French and employment and labor relations. She said she owes her success to the path that brought her to Penn State.
“I am completely glad I went to Miami Dade College, even though I’m getting in debt now,” she told Campus Progress. “By the time I graduate in a year and half I won’t even have close to half of what other students have in debt right now.”
Valverde is following a trend that President Obama has focused on in recent months: alleviating student debt and increasing graduation rates through community colleges. In his American Graduation Initiative, Obama stated his goal for the U.S. to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020, and community colleges will play a major part in achieving this goal because of their unique affordability. To support his graduation goal and focus on community colleges, Obama announced in September $500 millon in community college grants to expand job training through local employer partnerships.
According to an advice column published in The Chronicle of Higher Education last week by a community college associate professor, Rob Jenkins, community colleges are not “disappearing anytime soon.”
Jenkins listed five elements that community colleges have in their favor: work-force development and training, remedial education, online education, classroom teaching and economic value.
For Valverde, the tuition at Miami Dade College was roughly $1,300 for a 12 credit term. Now that she is attending Penn State, tuition is $10,300, nearly $9,000 more than the community college.
Before Penn State, Valverde had no debt. Now she is accruing about $15,000 per semester in debt via student loans. Despite the new financial obstacles, she said the path she chose for her education was the best decision she's ever made.
“It saves you so much more money going to a community college,” she said. “You avoid being in so much debt and being unhappy due to decisions made back when you were younger with a different mentality.”
Valverde said she hopes more students will follow this trend and continue to curb student debt.
“Don’t feel like you have to get into a prestigious university right after high school because that’s the ‘right thing to do,’ she said. “You will probably get into a better university after a community college.”
Melissa Adan is a reporter for Campus Progress.
- House Proposes ‘Simple’ Solution to Student Loan Rate-Hike
- Not About That Dorm Life This Fall? How You Can Own Your Own Home (Kinda)
- You Won’t Believe Which Government Policy Is More Profitable Than Exxon
- Here’s One Way to End Poverty
- Borrowers of Color Need More Options to Reduce Their Student-Loan Debt