IT'S no wonder that enrollment at community colleges in Ohio is up. The vast array of course offerings are certainly attractive to high school graduates and their older peers, but the considerably lower tuition, and the fact that Ohio may have a tuition freeze, is likely the major reason students are choosing the two-year colleges over their four-year counterparts.
At $75 per credit hour, Owens Community College still offers the lowest rate for any institution of higher learning in this region. No wonder Owens has long been one of the fastest-growing colleges in its category. Furthermore, this fall enrollment at Owens is expected to increase by 15 percent.
Community college enrollment is also on the rise at other two-year institutions. High school students are flocking to community colleges in Columbus, Cleveland, and Dayton, and the reason is obvious: The tuition is low, and it's going to stay that way. Lower, at least, than comparable four-year schools.
In an age when high gasoline prices are driving everything else sky high, it shouldn't be a surprise that more students who want a four-year degree are opting to save money by doing their early college work at a community schools before transferring.
This fall, enrollment at Columbus State Community College is expected to grow by 17 percent; Cleveland Cuyahoga Community College expects a 19 percent increase, and Sinclair Community College in Dayton is looking for a 20 percent boost in enrollment.
They may do even better in the future. The state budget calls for a tuition freeze at the state's two-year public colleges. The schools shouldn't hurt, since there are financial incentives available for colleges who agree to keep tuition frozen through fall, 2009.
By contrast, the University of Toledo isn't expected to increase tuition either. However, it will be hard-pressed for UT to compete for entering students, considering UT's $423 per credit hour rate for in-state students.
College students today are benefiting from a two-year undergraduate tuition freeze. Plus, the Legislature is pouring as much as $254 million more into higher education to maintain the freeze. However, students at some four-year schools who live on campus will still pay more because room and board is going up. Those increases, that are generally around 5 percent or more, are expected to support residential, dining hall, and other campus building renovation projects.
Residential living and meal plans are not what high school graduates who opt to pursue studies at community colleges have to fret about. Moreover, they won't have to worry about cost surprises before they either finish their associate's degree and go on to four-year institutions, or enter the job market, depending on their field. In these cost-conscious days, community colleges are offering good value and good services at an affordable price. That may be a message universities need to hear as well.