For high school students with college aspirations, the Advanced Studies program at Genesee Community College provides them with more than just a head start on acquiring the course credit needed to fulfill degree requirements. It serves as one giant, far-reaching savings account, with an estimated $2.7 million accumulated this past year to save students and their families in Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming (GLOW) counties.
The tuition fees for courses taken through Genesee Advanced Studies are $45 per credit hour, one third the average cost at public colleges and about a tenth of the cost at private colleges and universities.
"Aggregate cost savings to area families is enormous," Dr. Larene Hoelcle, vice president for Human Resources and Planning at Genesee Community College said. "The total cost per credit hour at public institutions, factoring in tuition, board, fees and other expenses can now run above $500 a year. At private colleges, the cost per credit hour can easily exceed $1,000.
In 2003-2004, 42 schools in the GLOW region and in neighboring counties participated in Genesee's Advanced Studies program, which offered a total of 357 courses to 2,979 students, resulting in 13,786 college credit hours earned.
A calculation of these figures reveals remarkable savings for college bound students with Advanced Studies credits. The Advanced Studies course at $45 per credit hour is a 60% savings over an averaged $111 per credit hour at a public college. And, a comparison to private colleges is even more striking with Advanced Studies students saving 89% against the average credit hour of $409 at a private institution.
In total, families in the GLOW region whose sons and daughters enrolled in public colleges with Advanced Studies credits saved over $500,000 last year. The savings to families with students now enrolled in private institutions was approximately $2.2 million for a total savings of $2.7 million. That's a large amount of money staying in families' pocketbooks.
"These programs not only benefit the students by providing challenging and rigorous course work, being able to explore future careers and taking a step towards attaining their educational and career goals, but they also are financially beneficial for families in today's struggling economy," said Elena Samson, Genesee's assistant dean for Advanced Studies.
Several outstanding high school scholars who graduated last June have shared their Advanced Studies experiences with Genesee Community College representatives.
Jaclyn Brian was Genesee County's Advanced Studies Mathematics Outstanding Scholar last year. She earned 49 college credits through the College's Advanced Studies and Distance Learning programs, allowing her to enter the University of Buffalo as a sophomore. Upon completion of her first semester at UB, Jaclyn will be a junior.
"The advantages to Jaclyn are almost beyond comprehension. The monetary savings accompanying her progression is monumental," stated Mrs. Marilyn S. Brian, Jaclyn's mother in a letter to Batavia City School Superintendent, Richard Stutzman. "Her rapid advancement (through the Advanced Studies program) will also allow her preferential treatment in registering for future classes and choices of residence."
Kimberly Harding, co-valedictorian at Attica High School in Wyoming County: "The savings were huge," she said, of the $7,000 in tuition expenses she saved by taking 12 Advanced Studies courses in her junior and senior years. "My parents were a little nervous at first, putting so much money into the (Genesee) program. But the way it ended up, no one has a problem with it. It was well worth it."
Harding is seeking a degree in international law at Syracuse University, where yearly expenses are in the $40,000 range. Through Genesee Advanced Studies, she earned 38 credit hours and entered SU at the sophomore level. Attica students last year earned 915 credit hours and saved anywhere between $60,000 and $300,000 in tuition fees (public vs. private colleges) by taking advanced studies courses.
Jeffrey Rook, valedictorian at Keshequa High in Livingston County: "The (Advanced Studies) program has prepared me" for life as a student at Boston University and enabled him to earn 34 credits by taking 11 of 12 Advanced Studies courses offered by Keshequa. He and his parents, Rob and Pam Washington of Dalton, saved more than $10,000 in tuition costs.
Bridgett Hoag, who took five Advanced Studies courses at Dansville High prior to enrolling at Queens University in Charlotte, N.C.: "My sister, Amanda, a sophomore at the University of Buffalo had taken the (Advanced Studies) courses, so my parents knew of the program and that I'd be saving a lot of money." Her savings through the program approached $6,000.
Devon Wilcox, who ranked seventh in her class at Albion High and attained 21 credits: "The tuition rate was definitely one thing we looked at when considering the program. We saved so much money, not only on tuition, but also on books and from not having to travel."
Danielle Ritchie, salutatorian at Newfane High in 2004, who is at Daemen College in Amherst as a second-year student with 41 college credit hours, including some through Genesee Advanced Studies: "I've saved approximately $15,000 in tuition costs" by taking advantage of the reduced tuition rate at Genesee Community College and other colleges in the region.
From Newfane to Keshequa, Dansville down to Pioneer High, area schools are experiencing positive results from the Advanced Studies program not only for the participating students, but also their families. According to Advanced Studies personnel, the program is expected to grow by five percent over the 2004-2005 school year.
"The (Genesee Advanced Studies) program is a great opportunity for students, especially in a small school like York, to get college credit," said Renee Webb, who is certified by Genesee to teach college-level Human Biology and Fundamentals of Cell Biology at York High School. Forty-nine York students earned 262 credit hours this past school year. "It's a great bargain for the kids," she noted.Barry Jones, a teacher at Lyndonville, has been on board since the inception of the Advanced Studies program and is one of its staunchest supporters. "It's one of the best things that I've ever been involved in," Jones said. "For kids in outlying areas to have a chance to take college credit courses they wouldn't have otherwise is just fantastic."
Jeff Kingsbury, Lyndonville guidance counselor, said he encourages students to take the courses for many reasons. "It provides confidence. It lets the kids know that they can be successful in a college environment and it helps their parents save a lot of money. The courses instill maturity in them and the payoff is so plentiful."
School board members also realize Advanced Studies offer numerous rewards to their constituencies.