Bad Economy Puts College Choices On Hold

By Cara Bernard

FREDERICK, Md. – Twins Joy and Josh Chand may look very much alike, but their college plans are as different as the rising and falling stock markets on Wall Street any given day.

The 18-year-olds attend Governor Thomas Johnson High School here, and are planning to go to college, despite the tough economic challenges that face their family and the state of Maryland.

Joy plans to attend McDaniel College in Maryland – but only on a full ROTC scholarship. Meanwhile Josh plans to attend Frederick Community College (FCC) because the recession has left the Chand family, like millions all over the country, in financial shambles.

“There’s probably no other options right now,” Josh said during a recent phone interview.

That’s part of the reason why his sister is considering ROTC.

“ROTC is a good way to pay for college,” Joy said. It’s the only other way to pay for college.

The story of the Chands is very similar to conversations going on around kitchen tables all over Frederick County.

FCC has seen a strong increase in the number of enrolled students over the past school year “exactly because of the economy,” said Sandra Smith, the associate vice president of enrollment management at FCC.

According to Smith, there has been an 11.6 percent increase (or an increase of 596 students) since the 2007-08 school year. In the past seven years there has been an increase of more then 1,012 students. Smith attributed some of the increase to population growth in Frederick County.

Most of the new students enrolling at FCC are 18 to 22 years old, according to data from the Maryland Higher Education Commission.

“A lot of people I know who wanted to go to (University of Maryland) or something can’t any more because their parents are struggling,” said Jonathan Bry, a senior at Governor Thomas Johnson High School.

Bry was planning to attend FCC before the recession. “When you jump to four-year college, you don’t know what college is really like,” Bry said. “You’re thrown into the real world right away. You wean yourself out of childhood into an adult world.”

Graduating seniors (and their parents) aren’t the only ones who are stressing over college fees. Many Frederick County 11th graders are also concerned about having to change their college plans.

Casie Morales, 16, a junior at Governor Thomas Johnson High School, wants to go to Saint Mary’s College in Maryland because of its study abroad program in Oxford, England.

She enjoys English and history, and wants to study history or literature, particularly from the Middle Ages. But if the current economic situation persists, she said she’ll probably just go to FCC.

“It’s the exact same education at lower price – sometimes even better,” Casie said. “I think that it (the economy) will still be bad at the end of the year, but the higher education you get, the better chance you have of getting a job.”

Wherever the class of 2009 decides to go, many students are also concerned about what is going to happen to them after college.

“It’s kind of like, I worry if everything is going to be alright,” said Josh Chand. “I’m worried about my future. You know, like when I have a family and a house and everything, it it’ll all be alright.”

Joy Chand was more optimistic than her brother. She said that ROTC would offer good employment options after college.

“You got to do what you got to do,” Joy said. “That’s just how it works.”


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