Community College Awareness Month Week 2 Day 3

Virginia’s Community College Students Pull Back the Curtain on Cost-Cutting Strategies
No one said a college education was cheap. But, if you play your cards right, plan ahead, stay focused and keep your eyes open for “free money,” you might just reap the same kind of benefits these young men and women did.
Have a Plan
Jared Wallace always thought he belonged in the healthcare industry, and at one time, considered becoming a hospital administrator. “Then I realized that would mean sitting behind a desk,” he said. “I prefer hands-on.”
So, right out of high school, Wallace developed a plan and started classes at Dabney S. Lancaster Community College, where he would go on to earn an Associate degree in Nursing and finish his education debt-free.
“Community college,” he noted, “was a real bargain.”
Start College While You’re Still in High School
Home schooled and the youngest of six children, Cynthia Forrester graduated from Lord Fairfax Community College with an associate of science degree when she was just 17. She was a dual-enrolled student at the age of 14, and noted, “Everything about me is associated with LFCC. I’ve spent most of my adolescence here.”
Dual enrollment allows qualified high-school students to enroll in college coursework while still in high school. Courses are taught by qualified full- or part-time faculty, and credit for dual enrollment course is generally accepted at all Virginia private and public colleges.
Earn Your Associate Degree First
Brandon Morgan was unable to attend VCU, James Madison University or Drexel even though he’d been accepted to all three. His family just couldn’t afford it. So, he shifted gears and enrolled at Tidewater Community College where he planned to “get a good GPA and transfer out.”
But, after some meaningful advice from his brother who encouraged him to get involved in school activities in addition to taking classes, Morgan immersed himself in the community college experience and, in the process, discovered his passion for teaching. He also saved himself and his family tens of thousands of dollars that would otherwise have been spent on tuition and fees at a four-year institution.
After earning his Associate degree in Applied Science, Morgan was accepted into the College of Human Ecology at Cornell University. “I’m really at home at TCC,” he said, “but I’m looking forward to the next chapter.”
Get Free Money from the State to Attend a University and Check into Scholarships Along the Way
A significant number of Virginia’s Community Colleges’ students have taken advantage of our Two-Year College Transfer Grant Program. Earning an associate degree can entitle you to receive a grant of up to $3,000 annually when you transfer to a participating four-year college or university in Virginia. In other words, we’ll pay you to earn a bachelor’s once you’ve graduated from one of our 23 colleges!
The Virginia Foundation for Community College Education – the fundraising arm of Virginia’s Community Colleges – offers a variety of scholarship programs every year, ranging from $1,000 to $10,000. In 2016, 74 students received scholarships totaling more than $364,000.
Take 15 Credits Every Semester
Time-management is critical to the success of any endeavor, especially when transitioning from high school to college or from one career to another.
Since many of Virginia’s Community College students work full and part-time jobs, the demands of a class schedule can be difficult to manage. Too many classes can lead to chaos. Conversely, too few can delay one’s pursuit of a potentially life-changing associate degree or workforce credential.
Most experts agree that 15 hours each semester will keep a student focused and on-track to complete their course requirements in a timely fashion. Virginia’s Community Colleges can help you reach your goals on time and for a fraction of the cost of a four-year college or university.


Community College Awareness Month Week 2 Day 2

10 Costly Mistakes Students Make While in Colleges
The only thing worse than student debt is unnecessary student debt. I mean, really, why would you want to spend years of your life making payments on something you never needed?
While it’s great to learn from your mistakes, it’s so much easier to learn from someone else’s. In that spirit, below are 10 costly, and avoidable, mistakes that students make while in college.

  1. They have no idea what they want to do: Higher education is supposed to expand your horizons and introduce you to new things. It’s not uncommon for students to change majors once they’re unrolled. The vast majority of students enroll in college majoring in, “I don’t know.” What sense does it make to go thousands of dollars into debt for, “I don’t know?” Use a free tool, like the Virginia Education Wizard, to get a sense of what appeals to you and what fits your skills. That way you’ll have at least a sense of direction before entering campus.
  2. They wait until college to do college work: Why pass up a chance to earn some college credit at what’s often a reduced price? High schools around Virginia hold Dual Enrollment agreements with their closest community college. These agreements allow students to take college-level classes while still in high school. Ask your school counselor of Career Coach about it. Use these credits to jump-start your pursuit of a degree.
  3. They never use their community college (Part I): Even if your goal is a bachelor’s degree, your community college can save you time and money along the way. Thanks to an amazing collection of Guaranteed Transfer Agreements, you can take your first two years at a Virginia community college and graduate. That can earn you a guaranteed spot as a junior at one of more than 30 universities. Did I mention that community college class sizes are usually smaller?
  4. They never use their community college (Part II): You can use your community college while you are enrolled in a university. Sometimes, it can mean scheduling a class that you really need, but it doesn’t jive with your university schedule. Other times, it can mean taking a summer class to stay on schedule. Besides, mandatory tuition and fees are only about one-third what you’ll pay at a public university. Why pay extra for the same composition class?
  5. They take too long to finish: No matter where you go to college, take 15 credit hours every semester. The college experience can be a blast. We get that. But the meter’s running. And memories of even the best parties can be tainted by a long, unforgiving (and expensive) hangover like unnecessary college debt.
  6. Missing out on scholarships and financial aid: Oh, those pesky deadlines. Missing those means missing opportunities to finance your college education. Make it a point to complete the FAFSA as soon as possible. You can qualify for grants or federal loans. “Loans.” There’s that word again. But, student loans are not like regular bank loans – the interest rate is almost always lower. In some cases, much lower. Need more information? You can use this tool to determine your eligibility for financial aid.
  7. Not planning ahead: Making new friends when you’re in college is both fun and a great professional networking opportunity. Today’s classmates may well be tomorrow’s colleagues. And building relationships with your instructors can help you land internships, not to mention the free advice they’re apt to offer when asked.
  8. Not creating a budget: Budgeting your money is a full-time job when you go to college. Also, try to avoid purchasing a new laptop – you can get by without it in most cases – and limit the amount of time you spend on your phone. Exceeding data limits can bust a budget in short order. Finally, use your student ID for discounts and be sure to take advantage of free events. In addition to going easy on your wallet, the latter will afford you ample professional networking opportunities.
  9. Credit Card Debt: Credit cards have a lot of appeal, and in today’s culture, they’ve become a way of life. But, they can raise some red flags, too. Many have high interest rates and unfavorable terms. And, we’ve all heard the horror stories linked to making “minimum payments.” In some cases, paying the least amount due each month can leave you saddled with debt that can take years to pay off.
  10. Reaching for an expensive college: A lot of students have dreams of going to a prestigious college or university. But, that might not make a lot of sense when it comes down to brass tacks. You could spend tens of thousands of dollars pursuing a degree that may yield little value after you’ve graduated. In Virginia, earning your associate degree and then transferring to a university can save you at least $45,000 on the cost of a bachelor’s degree. That’s substantial, especially when you consider the average student debt load of a graduate in Virginia is nearly $30,000.

Community College Awareness Month Week 2 Day 1

Top 5 Ways to Save Money on Your Bachelor’s Degree
There are no two ways around it: student debt sucks.
The typical bachelor’s degree graduate in Virginia leaves college nearly $30,000 in the hole. That burden is forcing people to wait longer to get married, buy a home, and even retire. So why would anyone take on more debt than necessary?
Below are five sure-fire ways to save money while pursuing your bachelor’s degree in Virginia.

  1. Know what you really want to do: There’s an old saying that if you don’t know where you’re going then any road will get you there. There’s nothing wrong with changing majors while in college. Lots of people do it. But that means you’re going to take, and pay for, classes that you won’t serve you in the long run. Set up a free account on the Virginia Education Wizard. Take the free assessment tests. That can give you a sense of where you’re going before you’ve ever spent the first tuition dollar.
  2. Start college while you’re still in high school: How does that work? High schools around Virginia hold Dual Enrollment agreements with their nearby community college. These agreements allow students to take college-level classes while still in high school, often at a reduced price. Ask your school counselor or Career Coach about it. Use these credits to jump-start your pursuit of an associate degree.
  3. Earn your associate degree first: I know, I know. You want a bachelor’s degree, and you’ll get one. But thanks to an amazing collection of Guaranteed Transfer Agreements, you can take your first two years at a community college and graduate. That can earn you a guaranteed spot as a junior at one of more than 30 universities. Oh, and by the way, community college tuition and fees are only about one-third of what you’ll pay at a public university. Did I mention that the community college class sizes are almost always smaller?
  4. Get free money from the state to attend a university: Here’s another way that earning that associate degree first makes sense and saves dollars. Virginia has a little known program called the Two-Year College Transfer Grant Program that will give you up to $3,000 a year, for two years, at a university to finish your bachelor’s degree. But you have to graduate from a community college first. And yes, that’s free money!
  5. Always take 15 credits every semester: No matter where you go to college, go full-time, and that means taking 15 credit hours every semester. We’ve all heard the old jokes about that last cousin who spent seven years to earn that degree. But much like sitting in a taxicab, time is money. Don’t keep that meter running one minute, or one dollar, longer than you need to.

So, what happens when you follow all five of these steps? Well, you’ll save at least $45,000 on the cost of that shiny new bachelor’s degree. That’s about one and a half times the average student debt load of a graduate in Virginia, and one more way to show that you’re smarter already.


Community College Awareness Month Day 3

What You Don’t Know About Student Debt CAN Hurt You

Time for a quick reality check: Yes, higher education is still one of the best investments you can make in yourself. On average, college graduates (including associate degree holders) make more money and have better career prospects than high-school graduates.
But the rising cost of college means more and more Americans are going into serious debt. An estimated 42 million of us are more than $1.3 trillion in the hole to pay for college. Americans owe more in student debt than on car loans and credit cards. In fact, student debt is climbing so fast that you can actually watch it grow at the National Student Loan Debt Clock.
If you’re considering higher education options, you owe it to yourself to make careful choices about how to pay for college.
Here are a few things you might not know about student debt:

  • Being loaded down by student debt can keep you from living your life. Student debt interferes with decisions about marriage, children and home ownership.
  • Student debs can follow you for decades and hamper your ability to invest for retirement. And it’s difficult to gain relief from student debt, even in bankruptcy.
  • Women are two times more likely than men to think it will take more than 20 years to pay off their college debt.

Here’s the bottom line: think long and hard about how you’re going to pursue that college degree. Learn how much college will cost. Did you know you can save about $45,000 by earning your associate degree at one of Virginia’s Community Colleges, then transferring to a four-year state university?
There are smart options available to pursue your degree without a mountain of debt.


Community College Awareness Month Day 2

Top 5 Mistakes High-School Students Make Before Starting College

  1. They procrastinate. Instead, take some college-level courses while you’re still in high school to reduce college stress and costs. Ask your school counselor about Dual Enrollment options.
  2. They don’t look ahead. Talk to a financial advisor to understand how student debt burdens can weigh you down for years.
  3. They don’t consider all the options. You could save $45,000 by earning an associate degree at your local community college and then transferring to get your bachelor’s at a four-year university.
  4. They leave money on the table. Many organizations are eager to award scholarships. Check with your guidance counselor…and apply!
  5. They don’t shop around. Find out how much that degree program will really cost at a for-profit college, a state supported university, or at your local community college.

Community College Awareness Month Day 1

Top 5 Ways For High-School Students to Save Money on a College Education

  1. Consider the options before you enroll. Check the price tags for earning degrees at for-profit, state universities or community colleges. You can do that easily and for free at the Virginia Education Wizard College Selector.
  2. Take college-level courses while in high school. It’s a great way to save money later. Virginia’s Community College Dual Enrollment programs make it convenient.
  3. Consider enrolling at your local community college and transferring after earning an associate degree; you’ll save about $45,000 on the way to getting that bachelor’s degree.
  4. Look around for resources; lots of organizations offer scholarships. Check with your guidance counselor, and APPLY for them!
  5. Get a reality check; consult with a financial advisor about the real-life consequences of racking up college debt, and ways to avoid it.
  6. BONUS! Listen, really listen to the advice offered by guidance counselors, Career Coaches and your parents; they may be boring, but they have your best interests at heart.
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