The Season of Giving for Community Colleges

Few people may be pulling out the Christmas lights or playing the carols just yet, but at community colleges across the country, the season of giving has already begun. Whether schools are helping those in need in their communities, or receiving assistance from generous donors, ‘tis the season for many of these schools. Check out how some community colleges are celebrating the giving – and receiving – season a little early this year.
 
Kauai Community College Reaches Out to Vets
 
This Hawaiian community college is making a point to provide opportunities to veterans on the Islands – particularly vets interested in pursuing higher education. The Garden Island reports faculty from the school recently met with area vets to brainstorm ways the school could reach out more effectively to this population. According to the article, the school had 41 vets enrolled during the past spring semester and would like to see that number increase.
 
Kauai Community College is committed to serving the veterans by assisting them in enrolling in higher education, career counseling, succeeding in college, and finding a job,” Earl Nishiguchi, vice chancellor for student affairs, told The Garden Island.
 
The meeting consisted of college employees listening to concerns raised by veterans and other military personnel in attendance. The hope is that this meeting will spark a partnership between the college and military community that will lead to increased educational and career success for vets who call the Islands home.
 
St. Louis Community College Cleans Up the Neighborhood
 

Student loan debt statistics continue to shock. Just two years ago, the average student loan debt in America was estimated at about $27,000. Now, a recent study from Fidelity Investments reveals that 70 percent of students who graduated college in 2013 borrowed money from various federal, state, and private sources to help pay for their education. And they left school with an average debt of $35,200. That's a 35 percent increase.

The Fidelity study also found that 50 percent of those 2013 graduates who had taken out student loans expressed surprise by just how much debt they had accumulated. That's another shocking statistic that clearly demonstrates just how difficult it is for many college-age students to visualize what their lives will be like when the borrowing phase of their student loans is over and the dreaded repayment phase begins. And that's not a good place to be.

The bottom line is that student loans are not optional arrangements between you and your lenders. They have to be repaid. They cannot be ignored or put off and federal law stipulates that they cannot even be discharged via bankruptcy. If you default on your student loans you can have your tax refunds intercepted, a portion of your wages garnished, judgments or lawsuits issued against you or collection fees added to your loan balances – not to mention harassing calls and tactics from aggressive creditors.

That's why it's absolutely critical that if you are a student loan borrower, you learn how to manage . . . read more

One of the more popular and less conventional fields of study at community colleges today is a degree in beer crafting or wine making. While these programs may not seem like paths to lucrative professions on the surface, the truth is that the wine and beer industry is a booming one in the U.S. and beyond. Check out these community colleges that offer training in a long-standing craft that continues to be highly sought today.
 
The Booming Business of Beer Crafting
 
According to a report at Blue Ridge Now, craft beer is a U.S. industry that is growing by leaps and bounds. The article cites numbers from the Brewers Association that shows the $10 billion industry grew to 10 percent of the entire beer market in 2012. During that same year, more than 400 new breweries opened across the country, which brings the total number of breweries in the United States to more than 2,400.
 
“I think it’s a great idea for a school to start this kind of program,” Andy Cubbin, co-owner and head brewer at Southern Appalachian Brewery, told Blue Ridge Now. “I think [the craft beer industry] is growing about 15 or 16 percent a year.”
 
The Community College Times reported earlier this year that providing a degree program in beer crafting gives community colleges another avenue to do what they do best – offer training for employment opportunities right in their own neighborhoods. The article uses Rockingham Community College in North Carolina as an . . . read more

The announcement of a significant increase in Stafford loan rates could pose a problem for some community college students. Despite reassurances from Congress that a deal is coming, those looking for ways to pay for their postsecondary education continue to be left in a bind at this point. On the other hand, many community colleges have done away with the Safford loan option for other reasons, and students are finding alternative methods for footing their tuition bills. Check out how community colleges are dealing with the issues involving Stafford loans and finding other ways to help their students financially.
 
Stafford Loan Rates Doubling?
 
MPN Now reports that the failure by Congress to address student loan rates has resulted in a doubling of the rates for Stafford loans. Without intercession by lawmakers, students could see rates of 6.8% on loans taken out for the upcoming school year. Last year, those rates were just 3.4%.
 
The rate hike applies to subsidized Stafford loans, which are those in which the government pays the interest while the student is still attending college. Subsidized Stafford loans make up about one-quarter of all Stafford loans issued. Unfortunately, they are also the loans that typically go to the neediest students.
 
Susan Romano, director of financial aid at Finger Lakes Community College in New York, told MPN Now that the changes may prompt students to look for other ways to pay for their college education.
 
“I think it’s going to make families think twice about loans, especially here at . . . read more

As federal lawmakers appear unable to make progress in the student debt crisis, state lawmakers in Oregon are moving ahead with a plan to make higher education more affordable and debt-free. The proposal, known as “Pay it Forward, Pay it Back,” is a unique approach to footing the climbing bill of postsecondary education today. The bill has been approved by the state legislature and is expected to be signed into law by Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber later this month.
 
What is Pay it Forward, Pay it Back?
 
According to the website for the Oregon Working Families Party, this new piece of legislation, officially dubbed House Bill 3472, offers access to a higher education without the accumulation of large amounts of debt. Students attending public universities and community colleges would be able to do so without paying any tuition up front. After the student leaves the college or university and enters the workforce, these students would pay a percentage of their income directly to the state’s higher education funding.
 
Under the current proposal, students graduating from a four-year public school would pay 3 percent of their income. Those graduating from a community college would pay 1.5 percent of their income. Payments would be deducted directly from the individual’s payroll, much like social security taxes. The payments would increase or decrease according to the individual’s income amount, and would continue for a full 24 years.
 
Pay it Forward, Pay it Back was the brainchild of a group of students at Portland State University, . . . read more
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