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To the graduates — consider your options

By this time next month, more than 470 of Beaufort County’s youngest residents will have received their high school diploma. Leaving behind the structure and regimentation of high school, each and every one of these students will now face the same question — what now?

For some, it will be straight on to the college or university, pursuing that ever-coveted four-year degree. For those who know without doubt what they want, and who need a four-year degree to get there, pursuing higher education in this form may well be worth it.

For others, military service will provide a wealth of opportunities. In addition to serving one’s country, one may also receive valuable training and education during the course of enlistment, knowledge that can be further built upon using the G.I. Bill to attend college.

For others still, entering the workforce straightaway will provide opportunities for independence, decent income and financial stability. Without accruing student loans, the money they earn can go toward goals such as home ownership.

One of the smartest moves for a local graduate, however, is to explore the offerings at Beaufort County Community College. Whether seeking college credit to transfer to a university or certifications to enter a well-paying profession straight away, it’s hard to go wrong with community college.

In many cases, those who learn skills such as welding, mechanics, cosmetology and truck driving will be better off than their peers who get a four-year degree, only to be saddled with crippling debt and a mediocre salary.

Tuition and fees for a 16-credit hour semester at BCCC total $1,259. Compare that figure to an average of $7,000 per semester at UNC system universities and the math is a no-brainer. The average cost per credit hour at a UNC system university is $295, where the average cost at a community college is $85.

According to the latest statistics from the Federal Reserve, in the first quarter of 2018, Americans nationwide held a staggering $1.5 trillion in student loan debt, a figure that has skyrocketed within the past decade from $619 billion in 2008. The average student loan debt is close to $30,000.

Whichever option you choose to follow upon graduation, here’s some advice you should remember: you don’t need to have your entire life figured out at age 18.

Take the time to be young. Try a full time job for a little while. Take some classes and see what interests you. Don’t feel pressured to get a four year-degree by 2022. A piece of paper shouldn’t define who you are as a person. Figure out what you truly want out of life and then plan accordingly.