The Wall Street Journal recently printed an opinion piece called “College Aid Means Higher Tuition.” In sum, the piece stated that the cost of tuition is going up due to the expansion of federal aid programs. While there does appear to be some loose correlation between student aid increases and tuition increases, it could be argued that such correlations are attributable to the cost of living increases that affect all of us.
The truth is that college is about value. What makes something valuable? Great question, and one that is very personal.
For some, it is the amenities that come with the recruitment package. This can include name-brand mattresses, fully equipped common areas with touch-screen technology and Keurig coffee machines, or restaurants on campus, which may generate a richer extracurricular experience. For others, it is about high-quality faculty, intern and extern-ships, labs with the newest technologies, and campus resources that assist with job placement after graduation. Whatever the case may be, prospective students are constantly looking for the return on their investments.
How do you get the best deal? Surprisingly, some of the best educations in Arkansas can be attained at the most reasonable costs.
Community colleges across the state are recognized as great value opportunities. You can complete the first two years of your education at a largely discounted rate, compared to the cost of attending a four-year institution, without sacrificing the quality of the education. Many local community colleges are launching honors colleges that are filled with enriching and personalized educational opportunities. Colleges like College of the Ouachitas in Malvern and East Arkansas Community College in Forrest City have introduced new honors college scholarships where admitted students are offered a full scholarship for up two years and articulation agreements for admissions into their four-year counterparts’ programs.
The state institutions also offer great values. Schools like the University of Arkansas system schools, Arkansas State University, University of Central Arkansas, Arkansas Tech University, Henderson State University and Southern Arkansas University all offer competitive scholarship packages that offer access to talented faculty, quality facilities and great campus environments. When it comes to these schools, look for the value that comes with the extras like studying abroad — as part of the international business curriculum at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock — or the opportunity to be a research assistant for a professor with a possible graduate scholarship attached.
If you are looking for a great deal on education, don’t look past the private institutions. Hendrix College, well-known for the quality of its educational programing, introduced the Hendrix Arkansas Advantage, where 100 percent of demonstrated financial need will be met through merit scholarships, need-based grants, federal and state grants, federal student loans and student employment for admitted students. Ouachita Baptist University, yet another widely recognized private college, has the Presidential Scholarship, which covers full tuition for one student from each school of study each year. Moreover, Lyon College offers the merit-based Brown Scholarship covering tuition, mandatory fees and room and board.
So, be a good consumer and shop around. This is only a small sampling of the educational opportunities available in your own backyard. Look at all of the options that come with an institution, and don’t be afraid to ask for the extras.
Rockwell’s Recommendation: Whether you are looking for a Tempur-Pedic mattress or that full ride, look first at Arkansas’ educational opportunities.