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Frugal students opt for 2-year colleges

In tough times, frugal students are starting at community colleges in Southern New Hampshire and Massachusetts’ Merrimack Valley, reports the Eagle-Tribune in North Andover, MA.

Kaila Nicholson of Kingston wants to join a SWAT team. Dayanna Martes of Lawrence is studying business. Aja Metcalf of Salem is majoring in exercise science.

The Northern Essex Community College students are looking forward to the day when they can start their new careers — without being burdened with thousands of dollars in student loan debt.

Students expect to save at least $20,000 in tuition, room and board by starting their path to a bachelor’s degree at a local community college.

Martes was offered an $18,000 scholarship to Newbury College, but calculated living at home and attending NECC was more affordable.

Nicholson, who is studying criminal justice, said she’s now paying $5,000 a year, compared to $30,000 a year at Southern New Hampshire University, where she attended for one semester.  NECC is smaller and provides more individual attention, she said. “I think it’s a good school and the teachers here are really good,” Nicholson said. “And it’s cheaper.”

Ever since the recession began several years ago, community college officials in New Hampshire and Massachusetts say they are seeing significant increases in enrollment as students and their families struggle to foot the rising costs of higher education.

News coverage of rising college costs has scared students and parents, said NECC spokesman Ernie Greenslade.

New Hampshire graduates owed an average of $32,450, the largest debt load in the nation, according to The Institute for College Access & Success. Massachusetts ranked 14th at $27,181.