By ELLY GRIMM
• Leader & Times
When students are faced with the task of choosing what college to go to after graduation, there are many factors to consider: is the major offered, proximity to home and extracurricular programs.
High on that list is finances and how the student and their family are going to pay for college.
The lower costs and higher financial aid options are often what might attract an incoming college student to attending a community college.
“For a lot of students, it’s all about the help they can get to go to school because school is expensive, a lot more expensive than it was like when I went to college, and I think we might not understand, as parents, that it has gone up so much,” said Seward County Community College/Area Technical School financial aid officer Shannon Davis. “In most of those, I think if you look at surveys or things like that, up in the top five of why someone couldn’t successfully complete college...in the top five, it’s going to be because of the cost.”
To help students with college costs, SCCC/ATS’s admissions directors came up with the ‘Go Green, Save Green’ slogan. The slogan was designed not only to promote Seward County and its school colors (green and black) but also to show that students can save money by going to SCCC/ATS or other community colleges.
There are several types of federal financial aid available (which one can apply to through their Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA) and SCCC/ATS also gives out a lot of funds in scholarships for books and fees and grants for tuition. One of the more popular grants for students who attend SCCC/ATS is the tuition grant offered to residents of Seward County, which covers full tuition for students. Academic scholarships are also offered to students who come from border counties in Turpin and Tyrone.
Davis said that going to a community college such as SCCC/ATS will indeed be a good deal for college students in the long run compared to starting out at a four-year university like Fort Hays State University, where their projected costs per year (including dorm residency) are $12,328 while at SCCC/ATS, projected costs (also including dorm residency) are only $8,050.
“The Board of Trustees when they meet, determine it’s always a process they look at very seriously because they know they want to still keep it affordable for students but also know the price if anything is going up – college education is going up, and our president said one time in a meeting that higher education is really competitive,” Davis said. “Everybody is trying to compete for the best, for the students, and they want to give the best college that you can and so in a sense we’re trying to be competitive, and we want to make sure we have the best prices, we have the best faculty, all those factors.”
In order to receive scholarship or grant funds, Davis said students need to fill out both the FAFSA along with the scholarship application for the college, which the students must fill out every year as well as maintaing a certain GPA in order to receive the funds. However, the scholarship application process isn’t very long or arduous.
Davis also noted the population at SCCC/ATS is unique in that a good deal of the student population comprises first generation college students. She also said the staff at the college is willing to work with anyone who comes in and asks for it, no matter the situation.
“Coming here as opposed to going off right away to a four year university I think is a big help to them because they get the more individualized attention with the TRIO program which helps people through a lot of things,” she said. “we try to be more customer-friendly and try to make sure people who walk in our door feel comfortable, welcomed, we want them to know we’re glad they are considering coming here and helping them as much as possible.”