By Sunita “Sunny” Cooke
It’s more than a piece of paper.
In fact, various studies show an associate degree yields more than $450,000 in increased earnings over a working lifetime, boosts tax revenue that funds everything from police protection to scientific research, and leads to lower crime rates. However, the rising cost of a college degree has become a national crisis making it harder to access.
MiraCosta College is pulling out all the stops to make a postsecondary education more affordable. From expanding the dual-enrollment program to creating the MiraCosta Promise, relief from escalating educational expenses is well under way for residents of coastal North County.
MiraCosta College has long offered credit college courses to high school students at its Oceanside and San Elijo campuses, and we went further in the spring of 2014 when we began offering free, dual-enrollment classes at Sage Creek High School in Carlsbad. Students who complete dual-enrollment courses earn college credit while at the same time meeting high school graduation requirements. Through such arrangements, high school students save not only in securing an associate degree or certificate, but also thousands of dollars in university costs by reducing the number of classes needed to complete a bachelor’s degree.
How vital is an associate degree? By 2020, projections point to roughly two-thirds of new jobs in California requiring at least two years of postsecondary education.
In San Diego and Imperial counties, new skills and greater productivity among former community college students are paying off with $6.8 billion in annual income added to the regional economy, according to a recent study conducted by an independent firm that analyzes the economic impact of colleges and universities. And by the end of the working careers among students enrolled at MiraCosta College in 2014-15 alone, state and local governments will have collected a present value of $157.3 million in added taxes, thanks to higher wages and increased business production.
Beginning this fall, MiraCosta College will further expand pathways to a higher education through the new MiraCosta Promise, which will provide a full year of college without fees, along with funding for textbooks and instructional supplies. Any student who qualifies for state financial need, graduated in spring 2017 from any accredited high school located within the MiraCosta Community College District boundaries who applies to attend MiraCosta College for fall 2017 and spring 2018 and agrees to complete at least 12 units each semester is eligible.
At just $46 per unit, MiraCosta College already has among the lowest enrollment fees in the nation; however, faculty and staff have made great strides in making a quality higher education even more accessible through a variety of textbook assistance programs to assist our students.
At MiraCosta College, we understand that a quality higher education should be available to all and shouldn’t require a middle-class family to take out a second mortgage on their home. We are committed to expanding the affordability of securing a degree or certificate, and we thank everyone in the community who has helped us in this effort.