Minimizing the Cost of a College Education

Considering attending college? Most potential students need to take a long, hard look, not just at possible fields of study in preparation for a career, but at how they can avoid or minimize the financial burden that might be incurred by pursuing higher education. There are ways to do just that and they are available right here in Garrett County.

Garrett College, as a part of the statewide system of colleges, offers students the first two years of a college education at significantly lower rates than similar education at a four-year college or university. With tuitions rising across the nation, more students are choosing the option to enroll in a community college to earn an associate’s degree and then transferring to complete the coursework for a bachelor’s degree.

One way to reduce the cost of college is to get a head start on earning college credits while still in high school. Garrett College in cooperation with the Garrett County Board of Educations offers this opportunity through a program of dual enrollment. A student can be enrolled at Garrett College and earn college level credits while also satisfying high school graduation requirements. By taking advantage of this program, the student can shorten the amount of time it will take to earn an associate’s degree following graduation from high school.

Among the other ways students can minimize costs of college is to focus on strengthening math and English skills while still in high school. Doing so may avoid the need for enrolling in developmental classes in college. Placement testing, required before a student can begin earning credits toward a degree, will indicate if the student needs to take these basic classes before plunging into the college level coursework.

Garrett College can provide a boost for those in need of improving placement testing scores. Refresher classes are offered to those who need to improve a test score and move into a higher level class.  Individuals who have been out of high school for a period of time or who have not earned a high school degree can take advantage of Adult Basic Education classes offered through the college’s Continuing Education and Workforce Development division, often free of charge. Small classes and individual attention provide the support to help individuals succeed.

The question remains, however, of how to pay for the community college education. Scholarships, grants, and loans are widely used to foot the bill for education. The difference between them is that loans will need to be repaid while grants and scholarships will not. So, applying for every possible scholarship or grant makes sense for students and parents trying to keep debt at a minimum.

However, the first step for students of all ages seeking financial assistance - whether it be a scholarship or a loan - will be filling out the FAFSA (Free Application For Student Aid), which is required for many forms of assistance. The Financial Aid Office at Garrett College can provide support and information on how to accomplish this process.

In addition to helping students with the FAFSA, the GC Financial Aid staff can also provide information of various scholarships available and how to apply for them.

In seeking scholarships, students in Garrett County have a benefit that their peers in other counties do not have – the Garrett County Scholarship Program (GCSP). The GCSP is intended to help support and encourage education and to be part of a full student aid package covering the cost of the tuition and the combined fee at Garrett College. The aid package may include other sources of assistance subject to terms and conditions.

The Garrett College Foundation also awards many scholarships each year to GC students. So anyone seeking financial assistance for tuition, books, or other college expenses is encouraged to apply. Scouring the various scholarship websites is also recommended.

Taking summer session and intersession courses have been another options for students to get credits and shorten the amount of time it takes to earn a degree. Garrett College offers such classes each year.

For a full roster of ideas to help ease the financial burden of a college education, students and parents are encouraged to speak with a financial aid counselor to get the latest information on resources available. At Garrett College the professional staff in the Financial Aid Office is available to help and may be contacted by calling 301-387-3057. The GC website also provides detailed information on paying for college at www.garrettcollege.edu