Students embrace the economics of community college

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(WTVR) Several thousands of college students in Virginia are bracing themselves for the possibility that they’ll be paying twice as much interest on their student loans come July.

Congress must extent legislation signed into law by then-President George W. Bush to keep the rate on new undergraduate student loans from doubling to 6.8%.

Already facing steep tuition costs, several students are turning to community colleges to help alleviate the debt they’ll face after graduation.

Student Gardy Saturne says he decided to attend his first two years of college at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College so he wouldn’t have to borrow quite as much money.

“I figured I’d do my two years here and get a little bit more money and get my college experience, and then go ahead and transfer.”

J. Sargeant Reynolds has seen a 13% increase in enrollment over the past few years.

John Tyler Community College has seen its enrollment double since 2006.

“The number of financial aid applications and the number of students on financial aid has doubled since 2008,” says Fred Taylor, Vice President of Finance and Administration at JTCC.

Both schools say their tuition cost per semester is roughly 40% of an in-state four-year institution, therefore community college is an attractive alternative for students.

Taylor says students can avoid student loans by applying for grants and scholarships first. He also encourages students to work while attending classes or seek re-imbursement from employers if their jobs are related to their studies.

Thomas Hollins, Vice President of Student Affairs at J. Sargeant Reynolds, says several students are also becoming more focused on their careers as early as high school.

“Students can come here while they’re in high school and take college level courses that are transferable to 4-year institutions,” Hollins says.

Gardy Saturne says he hopes to transfer to Virginia Commonwealth University next year, but is grateful he’ll be less in debt because of community college.

“Honestly, it was just cheaper overall.”