Out of the 156 high school graduates this year, 31 are attending community college, an all-time high for Winthrop graduates in recent years. This high enrollment in the smaller, two-year schools is proving to be a trend nation-wide, and for good reason, as the financial burden of four-year colleges often turns into a lifelong commitment, leaving graduates paying off loans well into adulthood.
Still undecided on what she wants to major in, recent Winthrop High School graduate Kiera Turner will be starting at Bunker Hill Community College in the fall and has plans of transferring to a four-year college when she has a better idea of her future career plans. North Shore Community College is also popular with students.
“I’m going in undecided,” said Turner. “I have ideas as to what I want to go for though. My current thoughts are either theatre technician or psychology. But something could easily change in the next two years. I chose community college over a four year because I don’t have an actual idea as to what I want to study so it felt like a perfect starting point.”
Turner’s reasoning for opting for community college is similar to the many other high school grads who don’t want to be burdened by debt when they are unsure of what they want to do for a career. The lower tuition rates at a community college offer both savings and an opportunity to explore a variety of different majors without breaking the bank. For those students who choose to work while attending school, a community college offers a flexible schedule with both day and night classes, catering to students who want the opportunity to attain more experience.
“I think it’s being a smart consumer,” said resident Nichole Vatcher, who works as an adjunct professor at both a four-year private university and a community college. Vatcher also has a history in academic advising and admission. “Higher education is becoming a buyer’s market and a lot of kids have clued into that. Also, many community colleges offer arrangements for direct admission to four-year schools once students complete an associate degree and many students see that as a great path to a college that may not be accessible otherwise.”
While the number of enrollments at four-year colleges declines, the enrollment numbers for community colleges continue to rise. The affordability of community college tuition is contributing to the upswing of graduation rates overall, as two-year schools are allowing students to get their foot in the door with half the cost of a four-year college. These fiscally responsible students have the opportunity to explore and determine what they truly want to major in before moving on to a four-year college, where they set themselves up on a positive path to graduate with a bachelor’s degree that straps them with far less debt than if they went straight to a four-year university undecided.
Smaller class sizes with easier access to professor guidance is an added bonus of attending a community college, but the numbers are what recent high school grads are really looking at, as there is a fear of being trapped in a life of debt like prior generations are struggling with now.
A student attending Salem State University will likely pay an estimated $11,019 for in-state tuition alone, whereas a student attending Bunker Hill Community College will pay only $4,718 per year. Taking it a step further, a student accepted into Harvard without any financial aid, will pay $47,730 per year for tuition alone. This does not include additional fees, health insurance, room and board, and personal expenses.
The future of education is shifting nationwide, as students are arming themselves with smart decisions that are less likely to be a burden on their bank accounts.