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Student debt nationwide is slowly approaching a whopping $1.5 trillion. Tackling that imposing number has become an issue on the 2016 presidential campaign trail, as both Republican and Democratic candidates have proposed plans to make college more affordable. Two schools have gone one step further: they're already providing better access to higher education for students looking to improve their lives.
Texas Southmost College in Brownsville, Texas
"We are excited and ready to help you begin your journey to a bright and successful future!" These words are part of the welcome message to incoming students at Texas Southmost College from the school's President, Lily Tercero.
Many of TSC's students come from the nearby community of Brownsville, Texas, where more than a third of residents live below the poverty line. Until recently, large numbers of the city's high school graduates never applied to college.
President Tercero and her administration have taken on these traditional barriers to learning and rebuilt the school's curriculum, re-working all kinds of learning for all kinds of learners. This includes a plan to put its curriculum online. Marti Flores, vice president of instruction at Texas Southmost, says, "Many students balance work and family responsibilities with their educational goals, so having affordable and easily accessible web-based digital learning materials would facilitate learning."
Ocean County College in Toms River, New Jersey
Students are balancing many challenges outside the classroom while attending New Jersey's Ocean County College. To help, the school has set an ambitious goal to reach by next year: triple enrollment to 21,000 students, by offering a wide range of professional and general degree programs—fully online.
The online curriculum is cheaper for students, saving them hundreds of dollars in textbook costs. It's also the right move for all Ocean City learners with aspirations beyond college, says president Jon H. Larson, whether they're earning a four-year degree or preparing for a career.
Texas Southmost is now two years in to full digital delivery. The platform is not just making college more affordable, it's also "meeting the needs of the 21st century." That's according to Angelica M. Fuentes, who is a dean at TSC. She adds, "I really do think TSC's digital learning platform supports what our students need, especially by preparing them for the jobs that they will be going into when they graduate."
Last spring, Pearson CEO John Fallon spoke to the 2015 graduates at TSC.
"Your success opens up new opportunities," John told them. "Not just for your generation, but for generation after generation to come."