Community college transfer becoming a more common option

A Chase Bank employee, a transfer student and a commuter. No, this isn’t the beginning of a bad joke. Instead, they are all the titles that DePaul junior Kevin Martinez holds in an attempt to manage the university’s rising tuition rates.

With the economy constantly in flux, the stigma of community college is gradually dissipating, and transferring from a two-year college to a four-year university is not only becoming recognized as the more financially responsible option but also as a more common method.

Martinez, a 21-year-old journalism major and Melrose Park native, is beginning his second year at DePaul after transferring from Triton College in River Grove, Ill.

“I chose to attend Triton before DePaul basically to save money,” Martinez said. “And I know it was the right decision. I actually wish I could go back and knock out a couple more classes. I really think others should look into doing the same.”

Attending Triton for two years, with its tuition in the $7,000 range, and then attending DePaul for the final two years can save a student around $48,000, financial aid not included. Because the cost of community colleges can be so low, once financial aid is factored in, the out of pocket cost can be very little, if anything at all.

That was the case for Victoria Sanders whose first year at Harold Washington College was completely covered by the money awarded to her through the FAFSA. She originally planned to go to an out of state school,- but when that didn’t pan out, she attended a Chicago City College instead.

“I was disappointed at first, but I decided to attend a community college because it was better than not being in school at all,” Sanders said, who is studying social work. She plans to transfer to a four-year university and hopes to pursue her Bachelors and Masters in social work.

In fall 2012, DePaul welcomed 1,738 transfer students, 58 percent of which came from Illinois community colleges, according to Enrollment Management and Marketing. The community colleges with the most DePaul transfers are College of DuPage, William Rainey Harper College and Oakton Community College.

For students who choose this path, the benefits are numerous. By completing a two-year community college track, they save a significant amount of money and usually graduate with an associate’s degree. Then, if the credit transfer process to a four-year university goes well, they can transfer in as a junior and continue on receive a bachelor’s degree; all of this usually occurs in the same time frame as their exclusively four-year university colleagues.

According to an email sent out to all students by the Office of Student Accounting, DePaul’s 2013-2014 tuition rates will increase by 2.5 percent for continuing undergraduate students.

While the email says that the increase follows the rate of inflation and boasts that the increase is among the lowest ever, students nevertheless feel the pinch monetarily.

“I really can’t do anything about it,” Martinez said. “I’m just trying to finish as quickly as possible and save as much from my job as I can.”

Brenda Williams is the associate director of DePaul’s Financial Fitness program, which is dedicated to helping students manage their finances and costs through college and beyond. Williams said that the way in which students handle the cost of college varies from working more hours to increasing scholarship search efforts. So when it comes to managing money once in school, where do students go wrong?

“Common mistakes include not calculating how much they can afford to borrow in student loans, not learning how to develop a good credit score and not creating a spending and savings plan that works for their unique situation,” Williams said. “Students should really take an in-depth look at their college costs to figure out where they can save. Considerable money can be saved in areas like housing, food and books.”

DePaul’s transfer course list has details on how students can save costs and even accelerate graduation through summer courses at a two-year institution.

For those students who started out at DePaul as a freshman, Williams also recommends that students visit Financial Fitness in SAC 192 or DPC 9400 for free workshops, tips, counseling and budgeting help year-round.

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