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Old 12-03-2008, 06:35 PM
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Post Report: California country’s most affordable higher education option

California's vast system of inexpensive community colleges has earned the state the top ranking — and the only passing grade in the nation — in a new analysis of America's college affordability.

But that distinction may be short lived as the state proposes tuition increases at its system of 109 community colleges and eyes budget cuts at its four-year universities. Until then, the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education concludes that California schools' easy access is unique across the country.

"Children from even the poorest family can afford to attend,'' said Joni Finney, vice president of the Center. "We found that no other state has a such a public policy in place.''

California was the only state to receive a passing grade in affordability from the San Jose-based center, which conducted the national study. It also ranked well above the national average in a measure of residents who have a bachelor's degree.

"It has made a huge impact on me and I owe it all to its affordability,'' said Patrick Aherns, 19, a student trustee for the De Anza/Foothill Community College District who lives with his aunt and uncle in Milpitas. "Community colleges are perfect for someone like me, on my own as a student, to do general education course work and find out what it is that I want to do.''

It was the sheer size and low fees of the community college system that pushed the state to the top of the list. An estimated 2.5 million Californians study at a community college every year. The average annual tuition at a California's two-year community colleges is $594. By comparison, the nation's next cheapest tuition — in North Carolina, for $1,380 — is more than twice as much.

Nationally, college is getting less affordable every year, according to the center, an independent and nonprofit organization. Overall, tuition increased 439 percent from 1982 to 2006, while median family income increased 147 percent and the consumer price index 106 percent, the study found.

The state Legislative Analyst's Office has recommended increasing tuition at community colleges from $20 per unit to $26 in January and $30 next school year. Additionally, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed cutting $332.2 million from the budget of California's community colleges.
Higher Education School gets more and more expensive, but also more required for any type of "good" job.
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