Graduating seniors rethink college plans

Now what? That’s a question area graduates – and their parents – are asking as they consider how the COVID-19 pandemic will impact plans for college this fall. They’re not alone. An April study by Niche, a nationally respected firm specializing in college research, showed that:

  • 57% of high school seniors are reconsidering the colleges on their list
  • 38% are considering choosing a college closer to home
  • 89% of seniors are more concerned about being able to pay for their education
Planning for uncertainty

“With the unpredictability of ongoing health risks, combined with the economy’s impact on the ability to pay for college, we continue to hear more and more concerns from potential students and their parents,” said Kirkwood Community College Director of Admissions Mike Espinoza. “There’s definitely interest in exploring alternative options for pursuing an education that’s different from their original plans.”

More affordable options

According to Espinoza, local students who planned on attending a college out of the area, or even out of state, are now wanting to explore nearby options that are more economical. At Kirkwood, the cost of a degree becomes even more affordable when you factor in grants, financial aid and the $3 million in scholarships Kirkwood awards annually to students. “Many students are discovering how community colleges really can be a great choice, especially in today’s higher ed environment,” said Espinoza. “For example, Kirkwood’s tuition is a fraction of the cost compared to most four-year colleges, including many that are five to ten times more expensive. We even have 29 tuition-free degrees in high-demand areas including health care,
business, agriculture and industrial technologies. In fact, last year more than 800 students in these programs paid nothing in tuition. Zero dollars. All thanks to the Last Dollar Scholarship that’s available to recent graduates as well as adult learners.”

Online and on track

“When the COVID-19 outbreak turned into a pandemic, Kirkwood was one of the first colleges in the state to announce a transition to online learning for the safety of our students, faculty and staff,” said Kirkwood Vice President of Academic Affairs Bill Lamb. “We’ve been offering quality online courses and programs for 20 years, so we were well prepared to quickly move all
students online and keep them on track to finish the semester without delaying their educational progress.” Moving forward there are still a lot of unknowns in how colleges will offer classes this fall. To Lamb, if other colleges end up with moving or keeping classes online, it makes more sense than ever for students to consider community colleges this year. “Right now, Kirkwood’s summer classes are scheduled to be online through June, and we plan to begin resuming
some on-campus classes July 1,” said Lamb. “However, if necessary, we are prepared to extend our online learning period into the fall. If there’s a chance you would learn from an online format regardless of where you enrolled, you’d be saving thousands of dollars with remote classes from Kirkwood.”

Graduate faster

Another trend nationally that makes sense for a lot of students is to consider shorter-term training for in-demand careers with higher earning potential. Kirkwood offers dozens of programs and degrees that can be completed in two years or less, with graduates in some fields landing $50,000-$80,000 starting salaries. Compared to programs with longer completion times,
these students pay a fraction of the cost, enter the workforce faster, earn more, and can avoid accumulating staggering amounts of student loan debt.

Guaranteed transfers

“For students who choose to pursue a four-year bachelor’s degree, Kirkwood is a great place to start,” said Lamb. “We have agreements that guarantee transfers and admission to colleges like Iowa, Iowa State, UNI as well as others throughout our state and across the country. Our liberal arts students can choose from dozens of programs in their area of interest, and can graduate
with an associate’s degree that features the same classes and credits they would take in their first two years at another school.”

Accepting applications

Kirkwood continues to accept admission applications for summer and fall classes. There is no application fee or cost to apply. However, popular programs tend to fill up fast. Interested students can apply online at www.kirkwood.edu/apply, or request more information at www.kirkwood.edu/findyourfuture.


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