Eliminating the mystery of higher education costs

Guest Correspondence

BY CAROL PROBSTFELD SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY AUG 17, 2019

The cost of a higher education should not be a mystery. It is one of the most significant investments we make in our future, but because the marketplace is so crowded it is easy to reach information overload very quickly. Numbers are reported differently on multiple websites making it a challenge to compare one institution to another.

The cost of attending college goes beyond tuition and textbooks. When State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, reports the maximum cost of attendance, we factor in the expenses of housing, transportation and living. These costs are different for every student, but the cost of attendance sets a baseline for the financial expectations of attending SCF and assists students with receiving an appropriate amount of financial aid.  

Attempting to compare colleges through the costs listed on national web sites can be misleading. Each institution determines their own cost of attendance and factors in different assumptions about student expenses. It is unrealistic to not factor in the costs of local rent or transportation for a college like SCF that does not provide housing. Our students deserve an accurate expectation of what their education will cost in and out of the classroom.

We are proud of our bottom-line cost. At $102.48 per credit hour for in-state, lower-division courses, we have the lowest tuition in the region. Our students graduate with very little debt. We also offer eligible high school students the opportunity to earn college credits for free through our on-campus dual enrollment program, giving them the chance to accelerate their pathway to a college degree at no cost while engaging with highly credentialed professors in a college classroom.

We hope that the hardest thing about college is the work in the classroom but understand that paying for it can be a challenge. This year we mailed financial aid award letters earlier than ever before and expanded our tuition payment plans. Last year the SCF Foundation provided almost $1.7 million in need-based scholarships. Whenever and however possible, we will help our students.

Our goal is to provide a strong return on investment to every student who makes an investment in themselves with a SCF education. Most of our students—Associate in Arts two-year graduates—move on to a state university in Florida where they outperform their peers in the classroom. Our workforce degree students—Associate in Science graduates, certificate completers and four-year graduates—move directly into our local workforce. Our graduates earning power grows with each educational level they complete. For many it is realized after they complete their four-year degree at a state university in Florida.

Choosing a college or university should always be about the student’s goals, not just cost. For any institution, a student should consider:

  • Affordability
  • Location
  • Convenience
  • Academic Programming
  • Student to Instructor ratio
  • Student Life
  • Extracurricular programs, e.g. Fine and Performing Arts, Athletics

 

At SCF, we offer the only full-college experience in the region, multiple convenient locations and world-class faculty and staff. We recently expanded our offerings to include a Bachelor of Applied Science in Supervision and Management, Associate in Science in Fire Science Technology and eight new workforce certificates that lead directly to employment in our community.

Instead of comparing colleges on vague national websites, I invite you to come have a personal conversation with us about the costs of attending college and the programs we offer. I am confident we have the programs and support to help you achieve your goals. We will eliminate the mystery of how much your education will cost and show you how much it is worth.     

Dr. Carol F. Probstfeld is President of State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota.

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