After recent government proposals, CHS students consider attending community colleges



Over the next six years, senior Jack Denger will spend close to $300,000 studying pharmacy at Butler University. He will spend two years taking general core classes, three years taking rigorous pharmaceutical courses and one final, expensive year in rotation to ensure a successful future.

“(The future) could turn out any number of ways. It really all depends on if I do well in school. If I make it through school, I’ll no doubt have a job. The Butler pharmacy school, specifically, has somewhere between 97 percent and 99 percent job placement ratings before graduation, so basically every single kid that goes out of that school either gets a job at a retail pharmacy or in a hospital,” Denger said.

The millennial generation, which includes everyone born after 1980, is incredibly optimistic about the future. According to a Bank of America and USA TODAY report published in late 2014, 80 percent of all millennials believe they will be as well off as or more successful than their parents. Additionally, according to a 2014 report by the Pew Research Center, the millennial generation is the most educated generation in history, with over one third of its members having at least a bachelor’s degree, and according to data on the CHS Class of ‘14, 87 percent of students attend a four-year college and 8 percent attend a two-year college or trade school after graduation. Yet, the average traditional college student in America has around $28,000 in debt, which, according to Dan Clark, Ivy Tech Community College Hamilton County Campus president, can be avoided by taking core classes at a community college and transferring credits.

“The difference (between taking a core class at a four-year school and taking it at Ivy Tech) is that at Ivy Tech, it would cost about $400. The same course at a four-year college would cost around $1,000, and that course is transferable, so if you take it at a community college, it counts at a four-year college,” Clark said. “Let’s say you save $600 or $700 on that course. If you do that ten times, you save around $6,000 in tuition, and if you don’t pay room and board, you save another eight, nine, $10,000 a year, so you can easily save $30,000 by taking those introductory courses at a community college and transferring those courses to a four-year college for one or two years.”

This is the route senior Kayla Stiff said she plans to take. Stiff said she will take core classes at Ivy Tech, then transfer to a four-year school such as IUPUI to pursue a degree in wildlife biology.

Stiff said, “Careers don’t look back on how much you spent for college. They’re not going to look up, ‘Hey, how much did you pay for college? Oh, you went to a cheaper college, you’re not going to get this job.’ There is an aspect of Harvard and Stanford that are really high colleges, but sometimes, with those places, you still get the same job that someone else (would) from a lower college.”

According to Melinda Stephan, College and Career Resource Center programming coordinator, cost plays a huge role in students’ college decisions.

“I think (college is) one of those things where it’s an expensive investment and it’s an important investment, so people are really thinking about affordability and value, and the buzzword in the field is ‘return on investment.’ If I’m going to spend this money on a college education, what am I going to get out of it?” Stephan said.

Senior Jack Denger studies in the library for math. He said he is excited to start a new chapter of his life in a new place next year, though he will not be far from his home.
Senior Jack Denger studies in the library for math. He said he is excited to start a new chapter of his life in a new place next year, though he will not be far from his home.

Denger said that in his college selection, deciding on choosing the expensive route was a hard decision, but he thinks his investment will pay off. He said he could have gone to Purdue University for about half the cost, but ultimately decided to pay the full price to go to Butler because he felt like it was the best fit for him.

However, paying a high price for a college degree is not the only way to ensure a successful future due to the changing job market, according to Clark.

“In competing with our global competitors, it’s becoming clearer that we’re pretty competitive with the Ph.D. and Masters level. Below that, we’re not as competitive in applied science and technical fields, and we may have a surplus of Baccalaureate degrees.  And so to be really competitive, there are actually some fields (we need to fill), particularly technical fields, in which we have too few students,” Clark said.

Additionally, President Barack Obama has proposed to make community college tuition free for those who qualify. According to a video released by the White House, the plan would make the first two years of community college free, which could benefit about 9 million students a year should they be willing to maintain good grades and stay on track to graduate. However, both Stiff and Denger said if the proposal were to go through, it would not affect their college plans. Stephan said she thinks creating free community college would increase more optimism for those with financial barriers.

Stephan said, “I think generally here at Carmel, we have pretty optimistic students. We have well-prepared students. We have high-performing students, we have students that are ready to move onto the next step, so when all those things align, I think it’s easy to be optimistic, but if you go somewhere else, there may not be as much optimism because there may be more barriers to that access, and going back to that plan to create free community college, when you do things like that, you create more optimism.”

Clark said he thinks the proposal for free community college would not only create more optimism among students but also would allow students to graduate on time and debt-free.

“I think (Obama’s proposal would affect Ivy Tech) in a very, very positive way. I think it would help more students graduate on time, and I think that’s the most important thing,” Clark said. “They might have to live at home for a couple of years, they might not work for a couple of years, but if they can get the degree finished on time without any debt, then they would be way ahead of where they might be otherwise.”

Senior Kayla Stiff stands in front of an Ivy Tech location in Carmel. Stiff said she plans to attend Ivy Tech for a year, taking core classes.
Senior Kayla Stiff stands in front of an Ivy Tech location in Carmel. Stiff said she plans to attend Ivy Tech for a year, taking core classes.

Stiff said although she believes pursuing education after college can help with finding a career, it is not completely necessary.

“If you don’t go to college, you can still get a good job if you try hard enough. If you want a career to move up on each step in your life, I’d suggest going to college because knowing the information and having a diploma, it’s easier to get a good job with a good salary,” Stiff said. “I want to be a zookeeper, so for me, having a wildlife biology background would get me into the zoo easier than someone who got out of high school (directly).”

Denger said he also thinks a college education can be very important, but it depends on the student’s situation

Denger said, “Especially in Carmel, because of the socioeconomic status, I feel like there’s a lot of social pressure for kids my age to go to college and to get a degree, when really, for some kids, it just depends on who you are. For some people, it might just be more beneficial just to join the workforce or stay and go to community college, but I think if you’re looking for a career rather than just a job, I think college is pretty important.”

In terms of motivation, Stephan said students are motivated to go to college by both the hope of a better  future and a desire to learn.

“We’re typically saying ‘How are you going to be a contributing member to society? How are you going to be a good citizen?’ and one of the ways we are contributing members of society and good citizens is what we do professionally, how we spend our time, how we take care of ourselves, how we pay our bills and that sort of thing. Focus on the future is definitely an important reason why students think college is important,” Stephan said. “But I do talk to a lot of students who are just really curious and want to learn more about things. It’s one thing to go to college because you need to get a job, but it’s another to go because you love learning.”

Denger said he is looking forward not only to the experience of college but also to the outcome.

He said, “A lot of people say the biggest thing to expect in college is that you’ll change, and you’ll inevitably change a lot. I’m sure that’ll happen to me, which I think is kind of something interesting to look forward to. I kind of want to get involved with something different that I haven’t been involved with before.”

A February 2015 poll by the Pew Research Center found that compared to European millennials, significantly fewer American millennials say success in life is determined by outside forces. The same poll also found that 73 percent of millennials in the United States believe hard work is important to getting ahead in life, compared to 17 percent in Greece and 25 percent in France.

Stephan said despite students’ perceptions that they may have little control, hard work does pay off.

“I think the reality is students absolutely have control over their opportunities and their future. The money you sometimes don’t have a lot of control over, but the one thing you typically have control over is amount of effort. Sometimes you don’t always have a lot of time, depending on the circumstances, but if you’re willing to do the things you have control over and then utilize the resources to answer the questions about finances, there’s really no reason why people shouldn’t place a high value (on higher education),” Stephan said.

Denger said he believes hard work, not fate determines a person’s future. Stiff, however, said while she does believe hard work plays an important role, her faith does as well.

Stiff said, “Deciding my own future, I think it should always be up to me. Hard work does get you a good future. If you’re lazy and don’t do anything in school, you’re not going to get anywhere. But, I’m a Christian, so I let God take control of everything. I don’t let myself be in this stress bump and think everything is up to me; really, (God) is in control.”

Stiff also said that she remains optimistic that she will be successful in the future. Stephan and Clark also both said they remain optimistic for the future of the millennial generation.

“I think in the United States and especially in the state of Indiana, the future is very bright,” Clark said. “And I think so for this reason: particularly in the state of Indiana, and all throughout the Midwest, the proportion of our population that is young is declining. And so we need people like you. The country needs people like you. The country needs and the state of Indiana needs almost every young person to succeed.”

Stephan said she also believes the future is bright for the millennial generation.

She said, “I think it’s absolutely optimistic, but I’m an optimistic person. The opportunities that are available for learning, for growing, not just studying but experiencing, are so much better than when I went to college 25 years ago in terms of studying abroad and internships and service learning, and I think if students are willing and able, that generation, there’s no boundaries in terms of what they can do.”