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1946 - Cher, great-granddaughter of Placerita Canyon homesteader Frank Walker, born in El Centro, Calif. [story]


Commentary by Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook
| Wednesday, Apr 24, 2019

Dr. Dianne Van Hook, College of the Canyons ChancellorWhen did college debt gain so much control over graduates’ quality of life? As education debt reaches record levels, we see the effects ripple through students’ lives long after they graduate.

Student loans affect graduates’ ability to buy a home. According to the National Association of Realtors, 85 percent of student loan borrowers struggle to save for a down payment or are denied a home loan due to their debt-to-income ratio.

Financial wellbeing much later in life is also impacted by student loans. A study by NerdWallet suggests that recent graduates will not be able to afford retirement until age 75, largely due to college debt. An inability to save early in life stunts their long-term savings plans.

A college education remains one of the most valuable investments a person can make, as it is a gateway to life-changing opportunities. But how can students set themselves up for success in the face of mounting college debt?

That’s a question we have answers to at College of the Canyons.

First-Year Promise is among the best answers. Offering a year of college free of tuition and fees, First-Year Promise also provides eligible students who attend full-time with free parking, discounted books, priority registration, and major and career guidance. Applications for the 2019-20 First-Year Promise cohort close April 30. Eligibility requirements and more details can be found at canyons.edu/Promise.

Community college should be the first choice of anyone seeking higher education. Whether you’re looking for career retraining or taking the first steps to follow through on your long-delayed promise to earn your bachelor’s degree, opting for a community college is the smart choice. You’ll find smaller classes taught by experienced faculty, curriculum that matches what employers need, and affordable fees that can help you avoid costly loans.

On average, in-state tuition at California community colleges costs $1,636 per year, the lowest in the nation for public community colleges. Compare that to an average of $13,947 per year for in-state tuition at public universities. That difference, over two years, means students can save nearly $24,000 while earning their degrees.

Such savings make a real difference when considering that on average, students who attend the same university for four years graduate with $37,172 of debt and parents who take out Parent PLUS Loans face an average debt of $15,880.

To further help students avoid one of the most significant expenses associated with higher education, College of the Canyons is a statewide leader in the development of its Zero Textbook Cost program. Ten of our core educational programs use ZTC materials, which saved our students millions of dollars on textbooks in 2018.

Finishing your degree faster can help you avoid extra time in college, which means you’re not paying for extra semesters. Students attending a California community college can take advantage of the Associate Degree for Transfer (ADT) program, which guarantees admission at junior-level standing to a CSU or select private colleges for students who complete the program and meet eligibility requirements. These degree pathways take the guesswork out of choosing classes.

At COC, we offer 27 ADT degrees in the most popular majors, including business, kinesiology and more. We are one of 12 California community colleges that have significantly boosted the number of students earning ADT degrees.  In fact, we increased the number of Associate Degrees for Transfer awarded between 2013 and 2017 by 703 percent. Our success in expanding access to ADTS earned us the honor of being named a 2018 Champion of Higher Education for Excellence in Transfer by The Campaign for College Opportunity.

If you think the price of college must include large loans, think again. College of the Canyons can help you earn a degree or new job skills and minimize, or even eliminate, student loan debt. That’s much more promising than years of costly payments.

 

Dr. Dianne Van Hook is Chancellor of College of the Canyons. The California Legislature designated April 2019 as California Community College Month to celebrate the civic contributions and academic achievements of the state’s community colleges.

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