Federal Student Loans – Unavailable at 20% of Community Colleges

Community colleges offer a cost-effective means for students to obtain a degree or certificate or complete the first half of studies required for a bachelor’s degree. Because they are so affordable – annual tuition and fees average just under $3,500 – many students do not need to take out student loans in order to pay for their expenses. Some students live at home or take public transit to further lessen costs, while others attend part-time and work so they can avoid taking out loans and instead pay for their schooling out-of-pocket as they go.
However, some students don’t have the luxury of depending on mom and dad for free room and board, money for textbooks, or gas money to get to campus. For those students, the additional costs of attending a community college can add up: When all fees, room and board, and textbooks and supplies are added in, the average annual community college expenses rise to $15,000. Federal student loans provide a lifeline for many students who would not otherwise be able to afford these expenses, minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged populations among them. But for a million students nationwide, federal student loans are not an option because their community college does not participate in the federal student loan program.
Opting Out
At first glance, it may seem counterproductive for a community college not to participate in the federal student loan program. After all, more available financial aid means more students are able to enroll in courses, thus helping that institution’s
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When it became clear that the country was entering a protracted period of economic decline in 2007, traditional and non-traditional aged students alike flocked to nearby community colleges to undertake degree and certificate programs. Some sought to learn new skills in the hopes of retaining their current jobs, while others, laid off from companies tightening their belts, were in search of a completely new set of skills to make themselves more marketable.
As bad as the Great Recession was for many sectors of the economy, it was a boon for community colleges. From 2007 to 2011, the number of students enrolled at community colleges nationwide soared by almost 25 percent. Community colleges benefitted more from the recession than their four-year counterparts for several reasons. First, community colleges are far more cost efficient than four-year colleges and universities, with costs for tuition and fees just a fraction of those at their four-year counterparts. Second, community colleges typically offer more practical and vocational courses that can help students find employment in fast-growing sectors such as information technology and health care. These programs generally take two years or less to complete, therefore students can enter the workforce relatively quickly. Finally, community college is an attractive option for adults who have to work around family schedules and their occupations, because many community colleges offer evening, weekend, and online course options. Thus, when the employment outlook is poor, people can quickly reinvent themselves by obtaining a community college education.
Declining Enrollment
Recent data on community college
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This summer will be wrapping up before we know of it, and your first semester at community college is rapidly approaching. Are you ready for it?
According to American College Testing (ACT), one out of every four college students will end up leaving college before finishing their sophomore year. With statistics like these, it’s easy to see why the first year of community college is critical to success. This is a chance to build not only an academic foundation, but a real-world foundation that will carry through college, career and the rest of your life. Todd Rhoad, Managing Director at Blitz Team Consulting, perhaps puts it best, “Students should begin community college with an open mind as this is their opportunity to begin to see the world in a whole new light and begin to develop a view of the world of possibilities.”
Community college presents different challenges and experiences than most four year universities, Todd believes. “Community Colleges aren’t as glamorous and flamboyant as the bigger campuses, which seem to be more interested in their architectural coherence and student social experience. Community colleges focus on the one thing that new students need; that is, the learning experience.”
If you’re getting ready to prep for your first semester, you’re in luck, because we’ve assembled four crucial tips to get you started.

1. Set Your Goals and Have a Vision
The first step to success in community college is having a
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For many students, community college is the most affordable option for obtaining a higher education. The cost of tuition, fees, room, and board at a two-year institution averages a little over $8,500, while the same expenses for a four-year institution cost nearly double that at just under $17,000 per year. Yet, despite the cost savings, some community college students still need financial assistance to pay for their education. The financial aid application process can present a number of barriers, especially for first-time college students who are unfamiliar with the process. However, these barriers can easily be overcome when armed with the right information.
Always Apply For Aid
Each year, millions of college-bound students apply for federal financial aid. Yet, millions more eligible students don’t apply at all. During the 2011-2012 academic year, an estimated 2 million students who would have qualified for a Federal Pell Grant didn’t even fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Even more surprisingly, approximately two-thirds of those students would have qualified for a full grant award that would have paid for all of their college expenses.
Instead, for a variety of reasons these students did not bother to apply. Nearly half the students who would have qualified for the Pell Grant simply believed they were not eligible for those funds. Another 34 percent reported that they didn’t want to take on debt, even though Pell Grants do not have to be repaid. Many more maintained that they did not have a financial
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A new report released by the Campaign for College Opportunity shows that of the more than 60,000 students who obtained an associate’s degree in California during the 2012-2013 school year, half took over four years to get their degree. This is an alarmingly long time, especially when compared to the 4.7 years it takes the average student to complete a bachelor’s degree at California State University.

A significant number of community college students choose to take that route because of the affordability. According to data from College Board, in 2011, community college students paid on average $2,713 in tuition and fees, as compared to $7,605 for students who attended an in-state four-year institution. At less than half the cost, community colleges pose significant financial benefits for students who are on a tight budget.

Reference: Center on International Education Benchmarking

However, time seems to be the biggest enemy of students who begin their post-secondary education at the community college level. The College Board’s report shows that of the cohort of students who began their community college studies in 2005, only 21 percent graduated within three years – a full year longer than is traditionally required. Many of the financial benefits gained by attending a two-year institution are lost if students aren’t able to complete their degree on time. Yet, students who enroll in a two-year program are the ones who are most likely to be impacted by factors that extend their graduation timeline. These factors
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