Mar 26, 2012

Community College as an Attractive Option

It’s no secret that community college is becoming an increasingly attractive option for middle income families.

A recent national survey by Sallie Mae found that 22 percent of students from households earning $100,000 or more attended community colleges in the 2010-11 academic year—up from 12 percent in the previous year.

What accounts for this trend? Low tuition, a career focus, smoother transfers, and growing public respect for all that community college has to offer.

And local students, put off by $50K price tags, are taking a closer look at nearby options including Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) and Montgomery College in Maryland.

“Middle-class families in our suburbs are beginning to realize the value of NOVA,” said George Gabriel, vice president of NOVA's Office of Institutional Research, Planning and Assessment, in an interview with the Washington POST.

In fact, financial aid officers at both NOVA and Montgomery College have noticed a trend in applicants from families earning $60,000 or more, according to the POST. And with facilities designed to compete with more traditional 4-year programs, opportunities for fast-track honors programs, and options for guaranteed admission to the most prestigious colleges in the country—it’s no wonder!

Responding to the increased demand among local high school students seeking alternatives to more expensive postsecondary options, the Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) continues to grow and add programs relevant to today’s workforce.

Here are a few facts that may surprise you about NOVA:

  • NOVA is the largest college in Virginia with 75,000 students in credit classes.
  • 25 percent of local public high school graduates attend NOVA.
  • Of all the northern Virginia residents attending a college or university, 40 percent chose NOVA.
  • NOVA offers more than 120 areas of study—many in high-demand fields.
  • With 53 percent minority enrollment, NOVA is one of the nation’s most ethnically diverse institutions of higher education.
  • NOVA is the region’s largest producer of nurses, healthcare workers, and first responders.
  • More than 60 clubs and organizations offer plenty of ways to get involved and be connected to campus.
  • More than 20,000 students annually participate in NOVA’s continuing education and workforce development programs.
  • NOVA has guaranteed admissions agreements with more than 40 colleges and universities—many in the DC metro area.
  • Over 8,000 students annually enroll in NOVA’s distance learning programs making it one of the largest in the country.
  • NOVA now has six campuses and three “centers.”
  • Low tuition and generous financial aid ($100 million last year) make NOVA a highly affordable option.

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