Financing a college education is possible

For most people a college education is a significant financial commitment. According to a Lumina Foundation report, only 25 percent of American adults believe that college is affordable for all. The Iowa College Aid Commission reports that because of the perception that college is too expensive, many potential students don’t even look into the possibility of attending college, let alone attempt to enroll.

Community colleges continue to offer the best educational value for the money. Iowa community colleges having only increased their total costs (tuition, fees, room and board) as a percentage of median income by 4 percent over the past 15 years. During that same time, Iowa’s three state university costs increased nearly 10 percent and private college costs rose 19 percent. Iowa Valley Community College District has been deeply committed to managing our tuition to lessen the financial impact on our students. For nearly a decade we have consistently maintained a lower percentage change in tuition and fees than the average of Iowa’s other community colleges.

Why is this important? Because we want to help our local communities reap the benefits of education and training beyond high school. Iowa College Aid reports that the value is clear: an individual with “some college or an associate’s degree” earns a higher wage, is less likely to be unemployed and has increased job opportunities. The counties in our service area range from 29-34 percent of the population with an associate’s degree or higher. If we want to meet the Future Ready Iowa goal of 70 percent of Iowa’s population with at least an associate’s degree by 2025, our communities have some work to do.

At Marshalltown Community College, we’re here to help anyone reach his or her college dreams. We especially want students and families to know that college is more affordable than they think. The first step in understanding the cost of higher education is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). After completing a FAFSA, students receive an award letter that tells them exactly how much aid they will receive and how much it will cost them (if anything) out of pocket.

Over the past month, MCC has hosted FAFSA completion workshops to assist students and families with applying for federal financial aid (grants and loans). The workshops are popular and we will continue to host them – the next workshop is Feb. 5.

In addition to completing the FAFSA, we encourage students to apply for college early. Although you don’t have to commit to registering, this maximizes your scholarship opportunities. Specifically at MCC, between institutional-sponsored and the MCC Foundation, more than $300,000 in scholarships have been awarded to students so far this fall. Furthermore, if a student is either a high school class valedictorian or salutatorian, he or she is offered a full tuition renewable scholarship. In addition to our low tuition, we have lots of scholarships to offer students and are ready to give it away!

I invite you to let us show you how affordable college can be, so you can reap the benefits that will impact your earnings for a lifetime. You can learn more at mcc.iavalley.edu or by calling an MCC Academic Advising Specialist at 641-752-7106.

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Dr. Robin Lilienthal is Provost

of Marshalltown Community College.