From My Window… Never underestimate ease of, need for college degree

Sean McMahon, Editor
Sean McMahon, Editor
It is wonderful to see and hear about all the Meeker and Rangely high school seniors filling out applications, taking their tests, checking into scholarships and grants and even student loans in preparation for life after high school.
Another popular funding possibility is that of a work-study student who works on the campus in any one of a large number of capacities, who often gets credit for their work but always gets paid, and that helps foot the bills.
Sure, there are droves of students in Rio Blanco County who will stay here and work, and they will remain close to home no matter what happens.
But the days of getting that college degree have changed so much and become so much easier and more important than it was even 10 years ago.
I can’t stress enough the importance of a college degree, be it an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree or some kind of doctorate. The day of the educated farmer, rancher and mechanic are upon us, and there are definitely strong arguments for advanced degrees. No one is exempt from gaining by having earned a degree.
The day was, not all that long ago, when no one in the family needed to earn a degree because the ranching, farming, mechanical and retail knowledge was in the blood by the time the student graduated high school.
That part of it has changed many times over. There is so much technology tied to all types of business that the two-year associate’s degree or the four-year bachelor’s degree have almost become as important as the sun coming up.
For those who wish to stay with nature’s call via service with groups like the U.S. Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management, a bachelor’s degree is mandatory for a good job, and, in most cases, a higher degree, particularly a master’s degree, is a necessary for an office job or to become part of any management tier.
There are reasons the average incomes of degree holders rise sharply depending on which degree one earns. An associate’s degree is necessary for nearly any “professional” job, a bachelor’s degree is required for many “management” jobs, a master’s degree is becoming more and more important for a “management” or “administrative” job as it shows more effort and will usually win one that job over a candidate with just a bachelor’s degree. A doctorate is quickly becoming the key to a “corporate administrative” job and is obviously desired at all levels, not to mention that it carries a much higher degree of respect.
Salaries also rise sharply with an increase in degree.
If I remember correctly from about three years ago, the average starting income for a person with an associate’s degree was $34,000, $47,000 with a bachelor’s degree, $61,000 with a master’s degree and $75,000 with a doctorate.
How do I know? From 2004 to 2010, I was public information officer for a two-year college in Arizona, and I was surrounded with the facts and figures daily and often served as a recruiter for the college through my daily tasks.
Money a problem? Not like it used to be.
Thousands and thousands of dollars are available locally through scholarships and there are also long lists of scholarships available from the schools a student is applying to. Grants are often not difficult to obtain. And both of these come without having to pay them back if a certain grade point average is maintained, and I have seen that required GPA to be as low as a 2.0, which is not difficult.
College loans are available for nearly everyone, and while you hear stories of former students being in deep debt after earning a master’s degree — and they may be right — not every student out there has to go to a Harvard, a Notre Dame or the University of Texas.
And don’t discount the federally funded or college-funded work-study programs that pay students decent wages for working at the school from a few to many hours each week.
There is so much to know about the post-secondary possibilities for education and funding that there isn’t enough room to write about it all in a month’s worth of newspapers if every inch of the newspaper was dedicated to the subject.
Did you know that from right here in Meeker or Rangely, it is possible to get a bachelor’s degree at a large number of major universities by doing online work and paying local state tuition or slightly more per credit?
When I was in Arizona, it was possible to obtain certain four-year degrees at Northern Arizona University without even setting foot in Flagstaff. It was possible for a Colorado student to go through the Arizona community college system to earn a degree at, say, Indiana University, paying roughly $110 per credit hour because Colorado was and is a member of the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE).
For example, at this same community college in Arizona in this current school year, in-state residents pay $78 per credit hour, a resident in a WUE state would pay $117 per credit and a student outside the WUE influence would pay the out-of-state tuition rate of $312 per credit.
Possibilities like this exist all over the country; it just requires a little research into the subject to find out what is available where.
(States that are part of the WUE system include Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming).
That same practice is being done through any one of thousands of junior colleges across this state or Western region.
Students can also get up to a bachelor’s degree by spending at least three years at home, paying in-state or the slightly higher WUE tuition to nearly any college out there through distance education (taking classes online).
Online classes can also be worked to an employee’s work schedule as not all classes have to be monitored at a particular time. The student is given roughly a week or so to do the work at their leisure.
The key to many possibilities lies within the junior or community college systems.
One can’t truly image the advantage a student in Rio Blanco County has by having Colorado Northwest Community College available in Rangely.
For those students who don’t want to move to a big university or college town, for those students who don’t want to or can’t pay outrageous tuition fees and for those students who want to continue with a current job while taking other classes night or day, depending on what your work hours are, the small Meeker campus of CNCC and the main campus in Rangely can figure out a schedule of on-campus or computer classes to meet your schedule.
It is becoming more and more popular nationwide for high school students to put in two years (or even three) at their accredited community college, get used to the system and working at the college level, which is quite different from the high school atmosphere, then finish off the degree at whatever four-year institution the student wants to attend.
In the meantime, the student and his/her family has saved many, many thousands of dollars in tuition, room and board and other expenses.
One thing President Obama seems to have made good on is the promise that a college education is not too expensive for anyone in the United States.
It takes creativity, investigation time, and it takes determination, but between scholarships, grants, work-study and student loans at roughly 3 percent, a college education is worth much more than the cost in the long run.
Sure it takes an investment of money and time to obtain a college degree. But the money and time are far outweighed by the benefits during one’s working lifetime, which makes the benefits of retirement much higher as well.
Give the thought to going to college. Almost all stereotype beliefs of the college system we all held even as recently in the past as 10 years ago just don’t exist.
A college degree, from two years on up, can be tailored to fit a high school graduate, a person in their middle ages who is working a 40 hour week, or even retirees through many colleges’ low-cost non-credit “leisure studies” or “for fun” classes.

Go Broncos!
My being a fan of the Denver Broncos goes a long way back — to the early 1960s and their first year in existence.
Over the past several decades — even when Elway took the Broncos to two Super Bowl wins — they were always the Cardiac Broncos. It seems they were either winning or losing many of their games in the fourth quarter.
This year has obviously seen a bit of the Cardiac Bronco-like behavior once again. But Sunday’s defeat of the New England Patriots was not only the second game in two weeks in which the Broncos defeated teams that had defeated them earlier this season, it seemed like it was almost without any cardiac moments.
Sure, one worried for a few minutes when New England got back to within 10 points in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t long before Peyton Manning and the Broncos opened that spread a bit wider and ran the clock down.
The Broncos truly looked like world champions on Sunday, and they made a believer out of me that this year’s Super Bowl against the Seattle Seahawks will produce the third world title in Denver’s NFL history.
Go Broncos!