March 14, 2016

Make Central Mass. the affordable college capital

At or near the top of the long list of what makes Central Massachusetts an attractive alternative to other areas of the state – and the country – is its affordability. The region offers a highly educated workforce, access to significant research and business infrastructure, a growing cultural hub in the city of Worcester, and a place where you can buy a house and lease or buy a warehouse or office building without breaking the bank.

In yet another one of the seemingly endless ranking of institutions and markets, Worcester Polytechnic Institute was recently named one of the country's top 50 of colleges by the online guide Value Colleges for offering a high quality experience at an affordable price for its big data program. As big data becomes increasingly important in the business world, WPI's profile continues to rise on the national level.

The WPI ranking comes on the heels of Anna Maria College and Quinsigamond Community College creating a $40,000 program for first responders and social workers to get bachelor's degrees; Clark University, WPI and College of the Holy Cross landing in the top 200 of The Princeton Review's "2016 Colleges That Pay Your Back" book; Clark and Mount Wachusett Community College partnering to help MWCC students obtain affordable bachelor's degrees at Clark; and Nichols College freezing tuition for the next fall semester. In addition, a state pilot program recently launched in Worcester giving parents $50 to start saving for their children's educations.

Following a long period of annual tuition hikes at colleges and universities over the past two decades, it seems the colleges are not just doing the necessary belt tightening, but in many cases developing affordable and innovative programs that are making their institutions more competitive. It is a hopeful sign that so many of our Central Massachusetts schools realize the opportunity to provide a high quality, yet affordable education. Could our region be developing a reputation as the capital for cost-effective learning? The recent recognition of so many area schools bodes well for students, parents, the institutions and our regional economy.

When tuition spikes started pushing traditional college out of the reach of the not just the economically disadvantaged but many in the middle class, there were too many anecdotes about schools offering mediocre education with too little value and a big bill. The end result were students paying for degrees or certifications that didn't necessarily lead to the careers of their choosing and large swaths of the workforce willing to learn but lacking skills that aligned with what businesses really needed.

Massachusetts has long held a stellar higher education reputation, and the colleges and universities in this state have long legacies of providing the learning necessary to create professionals and leaders in a wide variety of disciplines. Central Massachusetts is home to a dozen of these schools, and the city of Worcester is as much of a college town as any with WPI, Clark, Becker College, Assumption College, Holy Cross, Worcester State University, Quinsigamond Community College, MCPHS University and UMass Medical School all within its borders.

Central Massachusetts can leverage this already strong reputation toward affordability by following the example set by Clark, QCC, Anna Maria, MWCC and others in finding creative solutions to make certain degrees affordable. In a time when the demographics of college-age students show a dip in New England, creative offers and innovative programs can attract new student to area schools..

We applaud efforts like those taken at Nichols at freezing tuition rates. The more streamlined and efficient a school can be in delivering educational value, the more successful it can be and the more students who can graduate with a reduced debt burden, the better for them and everyone.

The more area colleges are attracting value conscious students, the more the region's reputation for affordability will grow. The community certainly benefits from having a workforce less beholden to excessive debt – it makes the road to marriage, children and home buying less burdensome. In a very competitive education marketplace, it is a good sign that so many area schools are being innovative with how they are pricing and delivering their products.

Comments

Type your comment here:

Today's Poll Would you take your company public?<>
ADVERTISEMENTS
Most Popular on Facebook
Most Popular on Twitter
Copyright 2017 New England Business Media