A Quality Education Doesn’t Mean Debt

I recently read yet another article about the staggering student loan debt in the United States.

It was a reminder of the struggles many adults face in this country trying to repay their loans while balancing mortgages, car payments, utilities, childcare costs and more.

Cost should not deter a high school student – or an adult – from obtaining an education so they can pursue their professional and personal goals. But I know it often does.

We, at Dalton State, believe nothing should deter someone from a college education if that’s the path they choose, especially not finances. We don’t want students to accrue a large debt to achieve their dreams. Therefore, we do all we can to continue to provide our community with a quality education at an affordable cost and multiple resources to help pay for college.

With tuition less than $2,200 a semester for in-state students taking 15 hours, we are one of the most affordable colleges in the nation. Fifteen hours is the number of credits needed to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in four years or an associate degree in two years.

Approximately two thirds of our graduates complete their education at Dalton State with no student loan debt. None.

Students can earn their degree with no debt thanks to federal and state financial aid as well as our scholarships through the Dalton State Foundation. We are incredibly grateful for the people who continue to support our students through scholarships so we can provide a quality education without our students facing financial burdens.

We recognize a cheap price tag is not always a good thing. It does no good to offer a low-cost college education if it is not first-rate.

At Dalton State, our programs have earned national and international accreditations thanks to the quality academic experience we deliver to students. Our academic programs in the School of Health Professions, Wright School of Business and School of Education have earned additional accreditations beyond our institutional one.

Dalton State continues to be recognized nationally for being a best return on investment, contributing to the public good, being one of the best colleges in the South and increasing the social mobility of our students, for example.

We survey our graduates every semester. This past year, 59% of the graduates responded they were already employed prior to graduation; 77% of these students were employed full-time. Employers included: Shaw Industries, Engineered Floors, Mohawk, Hamilton Health Care System, Whitfield County Schools, Dalton Public Schools, Hanwha QCells and First Bank of Dalton, to name a few. Another 63% of the graduates indicated they planned to continue their education at some point. Graduate schools where our students enrolled included University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Mercer University, Medical College of Georgia, Emory University, Georgia Southern University and Kennesaw State University.

We incorporate a variety of hands-on learning opportunities for our students across the academic programs. We call these “experiential learning” activities. Our health professions students and teacher candidates are required to participate in a specific number of hours of on-the-job training. Additionally, many of our students have opportunities to participate in internships or service learning (volunteer) in local companies and organizations. These activities allow students to apply what they learn in the classroom to real-world situations. Many of our students are offered full-time employment after these internships.

Our graduates are having a significant impact on this region and state, too. From the survey of last year’s graduates, 71% who were already employed were in positions within the Dalton area, and 82% were employed somewhere in Georgia.

Our students work hard to earn their college credentials. The majority (60%) of our students are enrolled full-time and yet 84% of graduates surveyed last year indicated they worked while pursuing their degree. Anecdotally, I can say I’ve spoken with several students in the past few years who told me they held multiple jobs simultaneously while enrolled at Dalton State. This speaks to the motivation and work ethic of our students.

A degree earned by a Dalton State student represents a great deal more than a transcript of completed coursework. This is why I beam with pride at every graduation ceremony. I know the work and dedication we are celebrating with each student who walks across the stage.