Community colleges add up to much more than savings

by Mary De Luca, Senior Director for College Communications, Community College of Baltimore County

Jenna Williams

Jenna Williams, Towson High ’13

Jenna Williams is a self-defined former “slacker” who was uninterested in school and had the poor grades that went along with it.

So how does a student like that end up cultivating a genuine love of learning and being accepted at some of the most prestigious colleges in America?

“Start at a community college,” Jenna advised. “I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do it.”

Jenna admits she didn’t get the best grades or like school much. So when she graduated from Towson High School in 2013, she decided to stick with serving up lattes at a local Starbucks rather than head off to a college campus. After spending that fall working at restaurant, she had a change of heart.

“I was bored and realized I wanted to go back to school,” Jenna admitted. “CCBC gave me a second chance.” Her teachers encouraged her to step up – in and out of the classroom.

“One of my professors told me I should lead a club; another told me to apply to the Honors program. They were telling me, ‘You’re smart! You’re capable!’ It makes a difference to have someone really notice you,” Jenna said.

60 percent of parents rate affordability as “highly important” when looking for a college

52 percent of parents hope their child will graduate with “no debt”

–according to a 2016 poll conducted by the education website Noodle

She joined the Honors program, became president of the Women’s Studies Club and, after discovering her passion for politics in a Political Science class, became an intern with the Maryland General Assembly in Annapolis.

By the time she earned her associate degree in 2013, Jenna had also been accepted to Brown University, Northeastern University, UMBC and the University of Maryland, College Park. She ultimately transferred to UMCP as a junior, with all of her credits intact.

“Some schools didn’t even ask for my high school transcript because it no longer mattered,” she explained. “I’d already earned my associate degree.”

Jenna is set to graduate from UMCP next spring, on track with her former Towson High classmates. Jenna and her family couldn’t be happier with how things turned out.

“Initially, we hadn’t anticipated this path, but it was the best thing that could’ve happened,” said Jenna’s mom, Katy McGuire. “It’s all because of the wonderful confluence of Jenna’s energy and the quality of CCBC. And we saved a lot of money, which is a bonus!”

Graduating from CCBC debt-free is especially helpful as Jenna has decided to pursue law school.

“I owe CCBC so much,” she said. “I’m not sure who I would be without it.”

Get through college debt-free (or close to it)

In high school?

  • Take advantage of Early College Access programs, where you can enjoy half-price tuition as early as 9th grade, may be eligible for tuition-free courses starting junior year, and accumulate a semester’s worth of college credits before “officially” starting college.
  • Plan to pursue the “transfer track.” Finish your associate degree first and then enjoy “guaranteed transfer” to any school in the UM system or transfer your credits wherever else you want to go. Depending on where you transfer, your initial two-year savings will likely range from $15,000 to $60,000.

At home, working or in the military?

  • Get credit for what you already know from your work, military or volunteer experience with Prior Learning Assessment. You could complete up to 75 percent of a program’s requirements without ever stepping foot into the classroom.
  • Increase your earning potential with short-term career training CCBC offers for a fraction of the cost of for-profit schools, and with better industry placements and reputation. The for-profit school price tag can be a staggering 5 to 10 percent higher for the same workplace licensure or certification.

Already attending a four-year college?

  • Complete General Education requirements during winter and summer breaks at CCBC. CCBC charges the same tuition regardless of when or how a course is offered, while four-year schools may charge more for courses taught between the main semesters.

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