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Elgin CC 360 May Edition

Managing your student loan debt

By Karen Beckstrom, director, Columbia College of Missouri-Elgin

Karen BeckstromGoogle “hot topics in higher education,” and the first link that pops up is related to student loan debt. Student debt has become one of the fastest-growing problems in the United States today. The website debt.org indicates that total student loan debt now tops an astonishing $1.2 trillion, which equates to an average debt load of $33,000 per student. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that you don’t have to end up with that kind of debt here. In fact, the typical loan debt for a Columbia College graduate is about $22,500, 32 percent less than the national average!

Here are some ways you can keep your loan debt in check while you are going to school:

  • Live like a college student — use student loan funds only to pay for direct educational costs.
  • Save money — look for areas you can cut while you are in college, such as leisure and entertainment expenses.
  • Corporate tuition reimbursement — contact your supervisor or HR office to see if you qualify.
  • Become more “financially literate” — use the great resources available through our Financial Aid office to aggressively track your loan debt.
  • Stay the course — before you consider a change of degree or major, talk to your advisor to see the impact any additional coursework has on your educational costs. Seek out and apply for scholarships — our website has many resources to guide you to a wealth of available scholarships and grants. Look at your community affiliations and see if there are funding opportunities through your church, volunteer groups or outside organizations.

Columbia College also has resources that can help you along the way, through our Department of Student Success. Our financial awareness program, Money Stacks, can help connect you with resources on scholarships, loan repayment, planning for your future and more! You can contact Student Success at (573) 875-7860, or email Money Stacks at moneystacks@ccis.edu.

The bottom line is that you are here to complete an education that will get you into your specific chosen career. With a bachelor’s degree from Columbia College in your hand, your median earning potential is as much as 75 percent higher than a person with a high school diploma. Be smart about your student loan debt, but keep pushing toward your degree here at Columbia College of Missouri-Elgin!

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Not too young, not too old

By Maria Haynie, Ready.Aim.Hire.

adults studying

The magic age for getting a degree doesn’t actually exist. However, students who consider themselves “nontraditional” are concerned about how their age will affect their experience in the classroom. Let’s break down this make-believe age barrier:

Imagine the fictional college freshman, a fresh-faced 18- or 19-year-old, walking through a historic, bricked campus while the changing red leaves softly fall from the stately trees overhead. The image is beautiful and certainly will be found at the main Columbia College campus and elsewhere across the nation each fall, but it only represents 3.4 percent of the whole student body at Columbia College.

While many evening and online students may consider themselves nontraditional students, the numbers show that the actual Columbia College tradition is about them. The majority of students, 56 percent, were between 30 and 65 years old in 2015. Our students are more likely to find a classmate to have much more life experience than a student who may still daydream about last spring’s prom. In fact, the student learning alongside you is 2.5 times more likely to be in their early 30s than around 20. It’s also likely you’ll have more than one classmate whose children are in high school, or perhaps has a grandchild or two.

The mix of ages in a learning community enriches the whole class with both mature and fresh perspectives. Many adult students share the common concerns about using technology or about getting the hang of school after being out of classrooms for a long time. The resources and technology used in our classes are designed to be user-friendly for all students: no higher education experience required to start.

At any age, going to college is no fairy tale. Earning a degree is hard work. But as an adult, older students have experience and responsibilities that can be resources and excellent motivation. You may have to use your imagination and get creative to fit school around your full and busy life, but the happy ending of graduation is attainable for any age of student.

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The pros and cons of summer courses

By Department of Student Success and Money Stacks

students taking summer classesTaking classes over the summer can be a big help when you’re pursuing a degree. At Columbia College, you can take up to 12 additional hours over the summer, which could knock off an entire semester of coursework! That lets you complete your schooling faster and lessens the financial load.

But how do you know if taking summer courses is right for you? Columbia College’s Department of Student Success and Money Stacks has some pros and cons you might want to consider when deciding whether to trade in your swim trunks for syllabi:

  • Keep up your momentum: If you had a good spring term and want to ride that wave into the summer, it might be a good idea to sign up for more classes so you can stay in an educational rhythm. If you’re a student that strives on structure and routine, you could benefit from forging ahead with your classes rather than taking the summer off.
  • Be mindful of burnout: If, on the other hand, you’re starting to experience some education fatigue, sitting the summer sessions out might be the best option. Summer can provide a great opportunity to recharge with family time, vacation or just straight-up relaxation away from a school setting.
  • Saving time can mean saving money: Getting done with school earlier could mean less interest on student loans to pay back. It also allows students an earlier gateway to the workforce or to looking for a promotion in their current jobs. But, along with these financial benefits, taking summer classes also necessitates some financial planning when it comes to allocating some of your funds and looking for additional scholarships of different ways to pay for the summer sessions.
  • Make time for fun: A Monster.com article on the subject cautions that taking year-round school could prohibit you from taking part in some of the extracurricular activities you enjoy. You have to find a good balance between enjoying the college experience and getting through it in a timely manner.

For more guidance on how to make the most of your Columbia College experience, you can contact the Department of Student Success at (573) 875-7860 or studentsuccess@ccis.edu.

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‘Handshake’ helps connect students with job opportunities

By Grossnickle Career Services Center

Grossnickle Career Services CenterStarting in July, Columbia College students will have a new way to connect with companies around the country who are offering enticing employment and internship opportunities.

The college is transitioning from CCNet, its previous career services software, to Handshake, a relatively new software that has been adopted by more than 160 colleges and boasts over 120,000 nationwide employers that have posted jobs through the service.

Students can upload their resumes, research companies, apply for opportunities and find out about career events through Handshake. The service allows students to connect with employers without the companies having to go through Columbia College in order for a student to access them. This makes for a powerful service that can help our students no matter what location they attend or what part of the country they’re searching.

An October article in The Chronicle of Higher Education explains it this way: “The company produces software that’s designed to replace the systems that colleges have long used to keep track of job postings and pass them along to students. For employers, it’s a way to easily mine talent and broaden the set of colleges where they send job and internship listings.”

Handshake is also very mobile-friendly and features an intuitive interface that will be easy to use. So students can utilize Handshake as frequently and simply as they do their social media applications on their phones!

For more advice on preparing for a career after college — or advancing in the field you’re in now — visit the Grossnickle Career Services Center webpage, call (573) 875-7425 or email careerservices@ccis.edu.

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Green Zone training provides support for student veterans

By Ousley Family Veterans Service Center

Soldier with flagStudent veterans across all branches of service understand that a “green zone” is a safe place in a combat zone. Did you know Columbia College also has a Green Zone?

What is Green Zone training, and what does it mean for you as a student veteran? The overall training objective is for faculty and staff to gain a basic knowledge and understanding of challenges faced by student veterans during their transition from the military to the college classroom. It also has the objective of providing resources available on campus and in the community to assist them. Faculty and staff members volunteer to attend training sessions providing information such as:

  • Identifying student veterans
  • Service components (active, guard, reserve)
  • Deployment cycles and impact on families
  • Traditional issues that student veterans face
  • Other information veterans want staff and faculty to know

The training concludes with faculty and staff interactively participating in scenarios to apply what they learned to typical situations with student veterans. New Green Zone team members receive a window cling or a decal to display on their office door or on their syllabi. This helps student veterans to identify trained faculty and staff members. When a student veteran has questions, or just wants to talk, they have a resource in any Green Zone team member who can understand their issues and concerns. Team members are available to listen and assist, and they can help with a referral to the appropriate services as needed.

Veterans Service is excited to announce that 234 staff and faculty members across the college have received Green Zone training, with additional training opportunities planned for the future. Columbia College Veterans Service and Green Zone team members are here to empower student veterans to make wise decisions about their educational goals.

To learn more, contact Veterans Service at (573) 875-7504 or ovc@ccis.edu.

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