Most local grads take advantage of 2-year option

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The majority of local college-bound students are electing to begin their post-secondary education at a local community college, instead of immediately enrolling in a four-year university, local guidance counselors said.

Counselors at Andalusia, Straughn, Opp and Pleasant Home agreed that many of their students have always chosen the convenience of having Lurleen B. Wallace Community College in the county. But some said even more are opting to begin working toward their college degrees at a two-year college now.

“The majority of our college-bound students attend LBWCC then transfer to a four-year college,” Straughn High School guidance counselor Linda Varner said.

In fact, Varner said that’s the plan for more than 80 percent of Straughn’s graduates this year.

Those numbers could be because of LBWCC’s proximity, but Varner said the local college’s  willingness to recruit and offer scholarships impacts the number who enroll there.

Varner said another plus for students who choose to attend the local two-year college is that they can live at home while they attend school, which saves money.

Pleasant Home’s guidance counselor Tony Wilson said there are roughly 10 out of 39 seniors who are planning to attend a two-year college.

Wilson said that the cost of a two-year college plays a role in students choosing this route.

“Money is the main reason, but there are those who choose the two year simply because they didn’t get in at the four year,” he said.

Opp High School guidance counselor Kay Donaldson said she also has seen a slight “dip” in those enrolling in four-year universities for their freshman year.

Donaldson said there are only about 10 percent of the 78 students in this year’s graduating class choosing the four-year college route.

At Andalusia High School, guidance counselor Jenny Pitts said she generally sees about 50 percent of the graduating class attend a two-year college, and this is year no different.

“It’s close to our area. I think we are running about 50 percent,” she said. “I always have a high percentage. It’s a great opportunity for students to stay at home for at least a year, especially with LBW being in our back door.”

Pitts said there are 93 seniors this year.

LBWCC officials believe the rising tuition costs at the state’s four-year colleges helps them recruit students.

For full-time students who attend the University of Alabama this term, the cost for 12-16 hours is $3,500 for tuition, plus $350 for fees. Room and board are not included in those figures.

Auburn University is currently charging $3,120 in tuition for 12-16 hours, and $246 for fees, while Troy University charges $216 per hour, or $3,456 for 16 hours, plus fees.

The University of South Alabama charges $162 per hour, which is $2,592 for 16 hours, plus $403 in fees.

Community college tuition has also increased, but remains lower than four-year tuition.

“The state board of education passed a tuition rate adjustment in October of last year, which sets tuition and fees at LBWCC to $104 per credit hour for summer semester and $109 per credit hour for fall semester,” Renee LeMaire, public information officer for LBWCC, said.

LeMaire said students can save a great deal of money choosing the two-year option.

“Consider the associated costs of housing and meals required if a student moves away from home,” she said. “By attending LBWCC for the first two years, they can realize these cost savings.”

Another benefit, LeMaire said, is the fact that all two-year colleges in Alabama are associated with the Statewide Articulation Reporting System (STARS) with public universities, which is a class credit transfer agreement.

“Students can be assured classes taken at (the community college) are transferable to the university they will attend by obtaining a transfer agreement,” she said.