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NECC Takes Measures to Make College Affordable

Submitted by on January 3, 2017 – 9:13 pm

Maria Carles, natural science professor

Free text books, a $1,500 savings account stipend, and discounted state bachelor degrees are just a few of the ways Northern Essex Community College is keeping higher education affordable and accessible.

Texts Not Required

To contain costs for her students, natural science professor Dr. Maria Carles opted against assigning a cumbersome and costly textbook. Instead she created a text using open educational resources (OER). The book was available to students for free.

“I like to offer an affordable option for students,” she said. “If they don’t have to spend a fortune on books perhaps they can then afford to take an extra course or finish their course load earlier.”

Her Human Nutrition and Health class is just one of dozens of Northern Essex courses taught with OER materials over the last three years, with an overall cost savings of nearly $650,000 for 4,200 NECC students.

As a leader in OER usage, NECC was selected to host the launch in June of the statewide initiative “Massachusetts Community Colleges Go Open.”

Investing in Education

What students save as a result of OER could be invested in a new matched savings program. Under this relatively new program titled “Invest in College Success” students are encouraged to save $750 over a six to 12-month time frame and earn $1,500 in matched savings through a public-private partnership. This gives students a total of $2,250 to invest in their education. The money must be spent on qualified educational expenses including tuition, fees, supplies, even study abroad programs.

Klinbert Garcia, a business transfer major, was one of the first NECC students to sign up.

“I was really interested in the program and earning and saving money,” he said. “I really want to study abroad so this is what I hope to put the money toward.”

Likewise for Belysa Trinidad, a biology major. She just enrolled in the program and will use the money to pay off college debt.

“I think it’s a great idea. It multiplies your money just like that,” she said.

Commitment to Education

NECC graduates eyeing a bachelor’s degree at a Massachusetts public university or college could save under the Commonwealth Commitment program, a statewide initiative that encourages associate degree candidates to continue their education at a cost savings. Full-time students, who earn their associate degrees in two and a half years, could be eligible for rebates, tuition credits, and discounts saving on average 40* of the cost of a bachelor’s degree.

The program is currently open to NECC students interested in pursuing a bachelor’s in biology, chemistry, economics, history, psychology, or political science.