Posted August 21, 2020
Paige Dillen didn’t plan to attend Lorain County Community College. The 2020 Keystone High School graduate had earned a Trustee Award scholarship from LCCC, which covers two years of tuition, but Dillen wanted the traditional on-campus, four-year university experience.
“I was set on going away to college. I really wanted to live on campus, meet new people, create memories, and live a bit more independently,” Dillen says.
Dillen was going to experience all that at a local four-year university, where she planned to earn her bachelor’s degree in biology and eventually go to medical school. Dillen had been accepted, confirmed her class schedule and received a housing contract.
Then the coronavirus pandemic changed everything, including the university moving most of the courses Dillen was enrolled in from in-person to online only. That’s when she decided the experience of on-campus living wasn’t as important as the cost of her education. Last week, Dillen accepted the Trustee Award scholarship and enrolled at LCCC.
“One of the biggest benefits of LCCC is how many opportunities you are presented with, at a low cost,” Dillen says. “I would prefer to take online classes for free than for a couple thousand dollars.”
Dillen’s parents agree with her decision, and not just financially.
“We believe that taking precautions to keep yourself and others safe and healthy during this pandemic is extremely important,” says her father, Scott Dillen.
After two years, Dillen plans to transfer to a four-year university to finish her degree. It might not have been what she planned, but new national data suggests attending LCCC first could help accelerate Dillen’s time to completing her bachelor’s degree.
A study from the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College found that students who took just a few courses at community colleges had a 4.5-percentage-point higher bachelor’s degree completion rate compared to four-year students who earned no community college credits.
“This research speaks volumes about the value community college coursework and experience add, especially when students are on a four-year degree pathway,” says LCCC president, Marcia Ballinger, Ph.D. “Beyond the obvious cost savings, the community college environment offers smaller class sizes that lead to close relationships with professors, flexible learning options that allow students to arrange their schedules around other obligations, and connections with local employers that give students access to early internships and experiential learning. These positive experiences result in knowledge and confidence that students take with them on the next leg of their educational journey.”
One outcome of this student-centered design is that transfer students who began at LCCC had a 20 percent higher rate of bachelor’s degree attainment compared to all other university students. LCCC transfer students also earned a higher grade point average of 3.11, compared to the institutional cumulative 2.78.
And when Dillen is ready to transfer, her credits are guaranteed to go with her and the process should be seamless.
“We know that 25 percent of our students will transfer to four-year institutions, so our deans, faculty, and advisors are continually developing enhanced pathways and approaches to help students connect the dots for streamlined transfer experiences,” Ballinger says. “Students like Dillen can transfer to another university or opt to pursue a bachelor’s degree through LCCC’s University Partnership Program.”
The University Partnership program offers more than 100 bachelor’s and master’s degree programs from 14 colleges and universities right from the LCCC campus. With the opportunities at LCCC allowing Dillen to save money, stay on track, and remain at home during the pandemic, taking a year off was never an option.
“I have never considered taking a year off,” Dillen says. “I see the benefits for some, but in my case, I would like to finish my education as soon as I can.”
Economics is on her side. A new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows that delaying college for a year could cost those who would’ve graduated in 2024 $90,000 in lifetime earnings.
“Our current and prospective students are making choices about their education and careers during a challenging time,” Ballinger says. “But they can attend LCCC knowing we are doing all we can to put students first and ensure their academic progress stays on track.”
It wasn’t easy for Dillen to forego her first university choice. But everything, including the data, is telling Dillen she’s on the right path.
“Everyone is different, but I believe I’m making the best choice for me,” she says.