College is possible despite the economy - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

College is possible despite the economy

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By Len Kiese - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - With people losing jobs and the cost of everything going up, some young people may have to forego higher education to help their families with everyday living. Albany school leaders say that doesn't have to be the case.  There are ways to plan for college during tough economic times.

With pencil to paper, Kiara Jackson is mapping out her future as a college student. "I am studying to be a medical coding assistant. I will be graduating April 24th, 2009," said Jackson.

Surprisingly, the college student is actually still in high school. She's part of a dual enrollment program at Albany Tech. "I plan to go to Valdosta State and I plan on using this to make some money while attending Valdosta State," said Jackson.

While Jackson is already on her way, high school senior Keidra Singleton is still in her future planning stages.  Her mother Cindy is worried about paying for it.

Singleton says, "A whole lot because you never know how my job or my husband's job may be in the long run. Who's to say? Tomorrow we may not have a job."

Those worries are plaguing parents nationwide. "Many families are facing some economic challenges. 32 percent of families have seen a change in their economic situation in the last six months," said Albany Tech VP of Student Affairs Pamela Heglar.

So with tough situations how can students or their parents pay for the American dream of a college education? "There are many programs available to help families," said Heglar, "there's federal financial aid. There's local state money available."

Several families attended a town hall meeting at Albany Tech Tuesday night called "Planning for College During Tough Economic Times". They learned that the federal and state governments are willing and able to pay for education as long as families are qualified. School leaders say it's all about planning and preparation to pay for school.

"Also by being smart and choosing public institutions which our tax dollars are contributing to anyway. They're usually lower cost than private schools and keep the students in the state," said Heglar.

Some high school students can also start now by finding alternatives. "There are so many families that need students to have an opportunity to work also and contribute to the family and that also gives the person the opportunity to get ahead," said Albany Tech President Dr. Anthony Parker.

That's what Jackson, a future doctor is doing. "Feels great. It feels real good. I can go to school and everything is paid for and I can be successful," said Jackson.

She'll graduate high school in May with the tools to head to and pay for a 4-year-school education.  That's some proof that college is possible no matter the economy.

School leaders say more students will graduate from high school this year than ever. That means students need competitive grades and and must plan early to get scholarships and other financial aid.

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