An IR View: Amid pandemic, consider a college close to home
editor's pick

An IR View: Amid pandemic, consider a college close to home

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Although COVID-19 restrictions are forcing high school seniors around the country to pick a college sight unseen, Helena-area graduates have two great options they already know and trust right here in our own community.

Carroll College offers four-year degree programs in everything from anthrozoology to engineering, nursing and business. It has the highest retention and graduation rates of any college in Montana and has been ranked as the best regional college in the West by U.S. News & World Report nine years in a row. Although the total cost of tuition, fees, and room and board at Carroll College comes out to about $47,00 per year, the average financial aid package is just over $28,000, bringing the total cost in line with Montana's major universities. 

Helena College is a University of Montana affiliate that offers more than 30 two-year degree and certification options, including many high-demand skilled trades and technology programs. Full-time resident students can expect to pay about $3,400 for tuition and fees and another $1,300 for books and supplies per academic year, making Helena College one of the most cost-effective options in Montana.

Both local colleges are also great launching points for degrees from bigger schools.

Carroll College’s accelerated learning programs allow students to earn a master’s degree in public administration or a Juris Doctorate from UM, or a bachelor’s degree in math or a master’s degree in engineering from Montana State University. Helena College has a program that lets students earn a four-year elementary education degree from UM without leaving Helena, and all 15 other schools in the Montana University System will accept general election core credits earned there.

In addition, both local colleges give Helena students the opportunity to pursue their higher education close to home. This is particularly important in the time of coronavirus.

Carroll College allows dependent students to live at home without losing scholarships, and Helena College doesn’t have residence halls to begin with. Both also offer a variety of social-distance-friendly online classes, including English composition, literature, history and mathematics courses at Carroll College and the full business and accounting programs at Helena College.

Although Montana has started easing its coronavirus restrictions, there’s no telling how things will look three or four months from now. Students around the country were forced to complete the last semester online, and there’s a possibility that students who do enroll in out-of-town schools may end up distance learning to some degree anyway this fall.

Even if in-person classes are able to resume, students can help prevent another spike in coronavirus cases by spending their first year closer to home. Fortunately, Carroll College and Helena College make it easy for many members of Helena’s class of 2020 to do just that.

Everyone’s situation is different, and we know Carroll College and Helena College are not feasible options for all. But we hope students won’t overlook the benefits of attending these great local schools, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic.

This is the opinion of the Independent Record editorial board. 

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