Wednesday, October 31, 2007

College Degree Leads to Pay Raise







For many, getting a college degree could be the fastest way to a pay raise.

To increase his income, next month John King of Phoenix will start college for the first time at the age of 44.

He plans to get a degree in computer technology from Rio Salado College. After 24 years of working with developmentally disabled adults, King has decided he needs a degree to advance his career.

“I think the most important thing a person needs to consider when deciding to go to school is that, if you don’t have a degree, you’re being shut out of this job market,” King said. “Without a degree, you’re limiting the amount of money you can make.”

King is part of a growing number of people who are finding that the cost of not having a degree is actually more than what they would pay to get one, especially once they look into financial aid and scholarship options.

“Students should look at education as an investment,” said Rachelle Clarke, director of advisement services at Rio Salado. “By investing in their future through education, students increase their opportunities to earn higher salaries and advance their career.”

King found the process to be more straightforward than he expected.

“Enrolling and filing for financial aid has been an easy process because I did a lot of it online. That really helped,” he said.

“People often think enrolling in college is more complicated than it is,” Clarke said. “When students call we explain that Rio Salado is a community college with open enrollment and with the exception of a few programs there is no application process. In many cases students simply need to enroll in a course to get their college career started.”

An adult with an associate degree earns 22 percent more than high school graduates, according to a 2004 study by the College Board, a not-for-profit group. An individual with a four-year college degree earned an average annual salary of $49,900, 62 percent more than the $30,800 earned by the average worker with only a high school diploma.

Rio Salado works with students like King to find the best way for them to pay for their education, said Linda Ross, director of financial aid for the college.
Students can apply for federal and state grants and loans with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Rio Salado also awards more than a million dollars in scholarships each year. There are new tuition payment plans available as well, she said.

“The fastest and best way to get financial aid is to fill out the FAFSA,” Ross said.

About 85 percent of Rio Salado students complete the FAFSA online at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/. Rio Salado students can be awarded federal financial aid year-round, which isn’t the case with most colleges and universities that have traditional semester start dates.

“Because Rio Salado classes have start dates every Monday, there is no ‘drop dead’ date that you have to complete your FAFSA by,” she said. “Once we confirm a student is eligible for federal aid, they can start their classes.”

Students can also use e-Cashier, an option to pay their tuition and fees in smaller increments over a longer period of time. Pre-scheduled payments are automatically drawn from the student’s checking account or credit card until the balance is paid.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 47 percent of all undergraduates enrolled in public 2-year community colleges receive some type of financial aid. Of those students, 40 percent received grants and 12 percent took out student loans.

For more information, contact the Rio Salado Financial Aid Office at 480-517-8310 or visit http://www.riosalado.edu/.

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