In this episode, host Joel Gage speaks with Rick Hanes from Edison State Community College about workforce development, College Credit Plus, student debt, and how to plan wisely for the future. The two discuss how community colleges save students money.

Joel and Rick say too many people think about college as an experience rather than a pathway to a career. We really need to focus on goals and aims of particular students.

“That way you can start really lining up what the options are going to be, be it a certificate program or a two-year program or some of the combination programs between colleges and universities, or a four-year program,” Rick says. “And making sure that we have a good idea as to what that student really wants to be doing when when they come out from that institution.”

Rick says going to a community college can be as inexpensive as $4,500 to $5,000 a year, while four-year institutions start at about $30,000 a year.

Rick says Edison State emphasizes hands-on experiences that allow students to get a feel for various career options. The college also has flexible scheduling to meet the needs of working students. And it pushes students to get involved in work they want to be doing for their career rather than to only get a paycheck.

Joel asks why more people aren’t taking advantage of College Credit Plus.

“I think part of it is cultural impact and perception and/or misperception, where for so long—and we’re talking decades now—it has been beat into the brains of parents and students that you need to go to a four-year institution, and it needs to be where you’re living away from home,” Rick explains.

They talk about how the awareness of student loan debt has many families starting to think about affordability and alternative options. Communication between students and parents is important, talking about the “financial box” your family lives in.

“I’d rather have those discussions upfront rather than after the fact,” Rick says. “I think that’s so important to have those realistic discussions.”

Rick and Joel talk about how companies in some industries will pay for degrees.

Rick explains why community colleges are growing in popularity.

“The reason, across the country, that a lot of community colleges are seeing a tremendous enrollment increase is because of the fact that, one, we’re flexible,” Rick says. “I think we are providing some opportunities for folks who need to work, folks who need to take care of family. I think the smallness of community college provides that intimate personal touch and feel that is not always available at some of the larger institutions.”

Rick says the faculty and professors have tremendous experience in their fields.

“When you come through the door at Edison State, you’re talking about what do you want to do in two years with that career, and what’s that career going to look like,” he says.

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