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By now, students have settled in to college living. They've bonded with roommates, formulated their opinions on college food and tasted the freedom that living on campus brings. But what of students who aren't sure that a four-year college is right for them? Here are four reasons why community college may be the answer you're looking for.

college-1Money is Tight. Community college educations are significantly lower than their four-year counterparts. According to the College Board, students who attend community colleges paid "a tenth of the tuition expense shouldered by students at private four-year colleges." Cierra Scott of Fredericksburg says, "I chose community college because it's cheaper than going to a four-year school." Luanne Lee, a college planning coach with Your College Planning Coach, adds, "Attending community college first verses going straight into a four-year state college can be a difference of approximately $15,000 to $20,000 per year. If a student is not earning at least a 3.0 GPA is it worth that extra expense? Especially if the student and family need to take on loans to pay for college?...The cost of education has changed dramatically over the past 30 years. Well over a 300% increase."

college-2You Prefer a Smaller Environment (and School Spirit Doesn't Matter). Since most community colleges don't board students, have athletic teams and Greek societies, the environments are a lot smaller and less traditional. Many students get to know classmates and befriend instructors. This benefits students who have insecurities—those older than traditional undergraduate age—and students who are generally more introverted. Says Mike Zitz, director of media and communication at Germanna Community College, "Students are not just a faceless number here. Class sizes are small and they receive caring, personal one-on-one attention from faculty and staff. At Germanna, faculty members say that they often run into former students a decade later and still remember their names."

college-3You've Been Out of School For a While and Want to Brush Up. Some elect to not attend college out of high school for various reasons. As time passes, children go to elementary school, military careers end and the job market changes requiring additional skills to earn higher incomes. All of these events force older people to consider college again. It's a trend Zitz has seen at Germanna. "There is no typical community college student today and certainly no such thing as a 'traditional' community college student. Today...we also see single mothers putting themselves through Germanna, then getting a bachelor's degree at the University of Mary Washington or other nearby four-year school, along with other older students who realize they will have better career options and earning power if they train through our Center for Workforce & Community Education. Germanna's comparatively low tuition (half to one-third of that at public four-year colleges and universities) and high degree of accessibility allows many students to work full time while they pursue associate's degrees."

college-4Your GPA Needs Help. Colleges are becoming more selective with time. One of the best ways to get into the school of your choice is to have a higher GPA. But what happens when you don't? It's not the end of the world. Virginia's community colleges provide students a gateway to the commonwealth's four-year colleges and universities through system-wide agreements. When a student graduates from one of Virginia's 23 community colleges with an associate's degree and a minimum grade point average they are guaranteed admission to more than 20 of the commonwealth's colleges and universities. Says Zitz, "Our faculty is first-rate. They teach at a community college because they feel they have more of an impact on the students' lives and that's fulfilling. We have a guaranteed transfer agreement and students who have gone on to schools like Virginia Tech and Virginia Commonwealth University say Germanna prepared them well."

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Pouches' Community Corner

Trains, Planes and Automobiles Kids' Race Series


From a small beginning, Cathy Weise of the Ron Rosner YMCA has developed an ambitious three-race series for kids for this summer, with the help of The Great Train Race, Shannon Airport, Dominion Raceway & Entertainment, the Fredericksburg Area Service League and Race Timing Unlimited.

Great Train Race Director Jennifer Taylor was one of the first on board.