ACCORDING TO DATA FROM THE FEDERAL RESERVE, Americans owe over $1.4 trillion in student loan debt, spread out among about 44 million borrowers in 2017. That’s about $620 billion more than the total U.S. credit card debt. It’s no wonder then, that many argue the rising cost of student loan debt is crippling the U.S. economy.
While that may sound daunting, a college degree doesn’t have to carry such a hefty price tag. Suburban Family recently spoke with Julie Yankanich, director of communications at Camden County College (CCC), about the cost savings available to local students and the many advantages of choosing to study at a community college.
“The average college student graduates with $26,700 in student loan debt, and many students owe well over $50,000 after earning a bachelor’s degree. It’s a losing equation and that has to change,” she says. CCC tuition is far more affordable than that of an endowed university. CCC courses cost around $400 apiece versus over $3,000 at other schools. “In today’s world, people are able to get both an associate’s and a bachelor’s degree for under $20,000 if they make the right choices,” Yankanich says.
That’s due in part to a financial aid program called Bridging the Gap that stipulates students with adjusted annual household incomes under $60,000 are eligible to earn a free education by attending CCC and Rutgers University-Camden. If your adjusted household income is under $100,000, then you are eligible for 50 percent off.
That doesn’t mean you’re getting half the education, though. Yankanich explains, “We actually have faculty members that are as credentialed and educated as you would have at a four-year school on our full-time staff.” The difference, she says, is that CCC’s full-time faculty is not required to publish every year. Instead, their focus is fully devoted to the classroom. In addition, CCC adjunct faculty teach at many of the area’s most prestigious four-year schools like Temple, Rowan, Drexel and Rutgers, the last of which is a premium partner of CCC.
“There are two aspects to the premium partnership. The first is based on location. Students can earn six Rutgers degrees here on the Blackwood campus. You don’t have to go to Camden or Newark to earn these six, most popular Rutgers degrees. You take all the classes for bachelor’s degrees in business administration, psychology, criminal justice, political science, nursing or liberal studies right here on our Blackwood campus,” she says. “Second, if you complete the first two years here at Camden County College, you’re automatically accepted into Rutgers-Camden for over 40 different degree programs which you can complete on the Rutgers-Camden campus.”
“We work hand in hand with Rutgers-Camden employees all the way from recruiting students to transferring them. It’s really a partnership,” Yankanich says.
CCC has also partnered with local businesses to provide a clear career pathway for its students. “Because we have such a large footprint [1.2-million square feet county-wide], we have strategic partnerships with businesses, health professionals and the financial industry to have really on-campus job assistance for students and partnerships that benefit them from the minute they start their degree,” she says.
An example is the school’s automotive program wherein students train while earning a full-time paycheck at General Motors. “They don’t pay tuition and they move through the program in a certain amount of time and then they make more money at their job,” she explains. “That type of partnership and workforce training is really the direction that we’re headed for our certificates and degree programs.”
In fact, Camden County College offers 45 certificate programs and each has an agreement with a business or industry. “Students can get jobs in their industry of choice after just 24 credits and then work their way through their degree while gaining industry experience,” Yankanich proposes. “Then, when you go back to finish your associate’s degree, the credits fit directly into the 60-credit associate’s degree so you only need to finish the remaining 36.”
With the cost savings, academic excellence, support and convenience that CCC offers, students and parents may find that a quality college education may not be so hard to reach after all. Yankanich invites anyone who is interested to take part in one of their tours to get a real sense of campus life. Visit CamdenCC.edu/Tours for more information.
Camden County College
200 College Drive
Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 7 (September, 2017).
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