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Community Colleges Becoming More Attractive to Students

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RALEIGH — Anyone planning to attend a 4-year college or university in North Carolina could find their options more costly, as the University of North Carolina system considers raising tuitions. One alternative that's increasing in popularity is the community college system.

The UNC Community College system is very proud of the fact that so many people are attending its 59 institutions. Attendance is up. The system served more than 795,000 students last year.

The mission of the community college system has always been to open the door to opportunity for those who might otherwise not be able to obtain a college education.

Some talented students are studying graphics art at Johnston Community College. Two years of study will equip them for jobs that can pay some good starting salaries.

"Averaging upwards of $33,000 to $40,000 depending on who they work for and how much they're willing to put into it," said instructor Karen Borsos.

That's one of the reasons why community colleges are becoming so popular. Another is the fact that the tuition is cheaper than at a 4-year institution.

"Well, we're definitely cheap," said Linda Douglas of the N.C. Community College system. "We're not an expensive alternative. The average for a semester or so, you would pay about $500."

"The cost is pretty good, though, based on the number of classes you have. It's pretty affordable," said Cathy Rominski.

For Rominski, who has a biology degree, there are other reasons for attending a community college to study radiology.

"The job I got once I graduated was at a video store which I could have gotten right out of high school," said Rominski. "So I decided I wanted to get specialized individualized training."

Upon graduation, Cathy expects to earn more than $40,000 per year.

Most 4-year colleges and universities stress the liberal arts and do not concentrate on the hands on technical training that's needed in today's job market," said Cathy Bunn, dean of Johnston County C.C.'s degree program.

Another attraction to community colleges now is the transfer of credits. The UNC system and some private colleges have worked out a general agreement -- state community college students won't lose any credits when they move on to a 4-year institution as a junior.

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Kelly Wright, Reporter
Rick Armstrong, Photographer
MJ Ainsley, Web Editor

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