Affordable college is available
By Bill Rhodarmer
I read with interest a recent column in a local news publication concerning the high cost of a college education and the debt often incurred by students and families — up to $50,000 for a four-year degree. In the column, the editor indicated that the only way to lessen the high cost and associated debt was for the state and federal governments to become more involved in controlling costs and providing more student aid.
One solution to the high cost of college which he did not consider is the role community colleges can (and do) play in reducing the cost of a degree at a four-year college. I would like to outline the role that Haywood Community College (HCC), in particular, can play for families in Haywood and surrounding counties that will have children going to college.
Dr. Rose Johnson, the new president at HCC, has brought a sense of renewal and optimism to campus. It is a fresh start at HCC with new philosophies and administrative changes that are student-focused and community oriented.
HCC teaches college transfer courses in communications, humanities and fine arts, math, science, computer science, and the social sciences. There are three ways an HCC student can transfer to a four-year college — receive an associate degree (Arts or Science), complete the 44-hour core, or take transfer courses for independent transfer, course by course. Whichever option a student chooses depends on his or her personal goals and ambitions.
Students who receive the Associate in Arts or Associate in Science degree can transfer to any four-year university in the UNC system and enter as a junior. Students who complete the 44-hour core (a combination of courses in math, science, communications, the social sciences and the arts) will also have the first two years of general education courses waived at any of the UNC-System four-year universities. And selected transfer courses taken by students attending HCC only for a short time will be accepted toward the general education requirements at any school in the UNC System. Most private four-year colleges including Mars Hill, Montreat, and Brevard, will also accept the degrees and core-classes from HCC.
Total costs at four-year colleges in the UNC System average around $13,000 per year, while costs at private schools average $24,000 per year. For a student living at home, total costs at Haywood Community College are approximately $4,000 per year.
So, if you are a family with college-age children, I would encourage you to consider a community college alternative. In particular, I would encourage you to consider HCC as an option to pick up the general education courses required by all four-year colleges if for no other reason than the fact that you can save from $18,000 to $40,000 for the first two years of college. But affordability is not the only reason to choose HCC for general education courses.
We have top-notch faculty who are knowledgeable in their fields and have a love for teaching and a caring attitude toward our students. All of our college transfer courses are taught by instructors with at least a master’s degree, and many of our instructors have done post-graduate work or have a Doctorate. In addition, we have, over the past three years, stressed rigor in our courses to better prepare our students for the four-year experience. And we also are expanding our course offerings to include Spanish, philosophy, American government, anthropology, religion, calculus, and chemistry. Many of our courses are available in the traditional classroom setting and online as either internet or hybrid courses.
We also have an excellent student-support system. A student experiencing difficulty in any course can receive tutoring and extra help in that course at no charge. We want our students to succeed.
Thus, for many students, the college transfer program at Haywood Community College is a viable solution to the high cost (and resulting debt) of a four-year college education. HCC furnishes an opportunity to learn for all of our students but I feel that the following students could benefit most from our college transfer program.
• High school students or home-schooled students who are at least 16 years of age. These students can take college transfer courses tuition free as dual enrolled students. The only expense to the student is the book for the course.
• Students attending four-year colleges who for any reason are not performing up to standards. These students can enroll at HCC as transfer students beginning in January 2007.
• Seniors in high school (or home-schoolers) who are undecided about where to go to college. These students can pick their four-year school, and can enroll at HCC beginning fall semester 2007 for their general education courses.
• And, of course, the “back to school” students who have been out of school for a while and are returning to school to pursue a dream.
HCC is dedicated to helping our students get the education they want and need. To better accommodate many of our students’ busy schedules, we offer alternative class schedules. Classes are offered at 7 a.m., 4 p.m., one night a week, etc. Also, a 10-week short semester will be offered in the Spring and 5-week and 10-week sessions are being considered for the 2007 Summer Term. Our philosophy is that with a qualified instructor, we can teach any class, any time, any place for at least 10 enrolled students.
Finally I am available to any parent or student who wants to know more about our programs. In addition to our college-transfer program, we have more than 45 applied programs of study. And the college is investigating offering programs in agriculture biotechnology, entrepreneurship,clinical informatics, therapeutic massage, sustainable development technology and several others.
(Bill Rhodarmer is the Haywood Community College Interim Vice President of Academic Services.)