Proposed plan would ease tuition pain
By: Stephanie Stilwell
GREENSBORO, N.C. – With tuition at colleges and universities across the country continuing to climb still higher, many graduating students are faced with the dilemma of how to pay for their continued education.
But if a group of academic leaders in Guilford County have their way, the task of financing a college education will become a whole lot easier for county graduates.
Several officials have proposed a plan that would provide two years of education at the Guilford Technical Community College free of charge for graduating high school students in the Guilford County School system.
The plan would provide hope for those that might otherwise have no way of paying for their entire college education, said Dr. Don Cameron, president of GTCC. “So I see this as an opportunity for young people to have hope.”
One year of tuition and fees at GTCC cost approximately $1,500 a year, so a two-year associate degree would normally cost around $3,000 per student, said Cameron.
With 4,195 students receiving diplomas from GCS in 2006, the dollars could start to add up quickly.
“If you look at in terms of every single child in the Guilford County Schools, that number is very imposing,” said Alan Duncan, a member of the Guilford County School Board. “But depending on how it’s set up - and what limitations are put into place - that number might be a lot less imposing, but still serve as a powerful incentive for many of our children to realize that there are tremendous opportunities out there for them and give them something.”
Under the proposed plan, each senior would have to meet specific admission guidelines in order to qualify for the free education – something that could work as added motivation to excel in the classroom.
“This is not an entitlement,” said Cameron. “This is an opportunity for students to succeed in high school, and then have their tuition and fees paid for at GTCC.”
Despite the restrictions on who is eligible for the free education, the price tag could be too much for an already taxed public school system.
“The funding is substantial and we, as a school system, do not have that funding,” said Duncan. “We are not a funding body, so we can't create that funding. We can strongly support this, work on putting it into play, strongly support it among various groups and advocate for it, but ultimately we need broad-based support to make this work.”
Both Cameron and Duncan agree that support would have to ultimately come from the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, which would then raise the money from taxpayers.
While the two plan to continue to pursue the idea and ask the county commission for financial support, they admit that right now the idea is still in the planning stage, and plenty of work still needs to be done to determine if it is viable.