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Local View: Clark College great value for students, community

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Published: January 17, 2016, 6:00am

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York released a study this week demonstrating that during and after the Great Recession, college graduates suffered less financially than those without a college degree.

Time and time again similar studies have shown that having a college degree is a key to getting and keeping a job in good times and in bad. I can already hear skeptics saying not everyone needs to go to college to get a job. I hesitantly agree, but without a college education you are stacking the odds against your ability to sustain a job and to increase your earning ability throughout your working life.

College enrollments are counter-cyclical to the economy. Community college enrollments across the region and nation have been declining. When unemployment is low, people have jobs, and college may not be a priority.

As a college leader who witnesses student success daily, I encourage folks to consider attending a community college — more specifically Clark College. Earning a degree, certificate or skill at Clark is one of the best investments one can make in their future. There is no better return on investment than an investment in education.

Clark College and other Washington community and technical colleges are a great value. Our tuition is roughly half that of state four-year institutions. Tuition at for-profit schools can be five times Clark’s cost per credit. Our average classroom size is about 20 students to 1 instructor, giving students more one-on-one interaction with instructors. Attending school near home or family allows students to save on room and board costs. After attending Clark, students are better prepared to finish their bachelor’s degree while potentially saving them tens of thousands of dollars along the way.

Nearly half of all bachelor’s degree graduates in America have spent some time at a community college, and those students have higher success rates in bachelor’s degree programs than those students who go straight from high school to a four-year institution.

Future payoff

Because of the strength of the Clark College Foundation (our community) and other partnerships, we provide students more than $1.5 million in scholarships each year. The college disburses more than $47 million in financial aid each year to more than 7,500 students. These funding options allow students to see that a college education is possible.

Beyond tuition and fees, we work hard to keep costs low because the little things add up. Our parking is free. We saved students more than $100,000 last year by offering rental textbooks, and our professors have embraced “Open Educational Resources,” a movement to reduce textbook costs even further.

According to the Occupational Outlook Quarterly, earning a two-year degree doubles a graduate’s average yearly income. Nearly half of our students attend Clark to earn a certificate or degree in the professional/technical career field so they can immediately go into the workplace and secure a job.

While many readers will already have earned a college degree, I encourage you to help us spread the word about this jewel of an asset in our community. Encourage those you know to consider a community college — Clark College, The Penguin Nation — for a great start to their higher education, to start or change careers, or open new doors in their existing career.

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