Meeting student needs

Jun. 29, 2014 @ 05:59 PM

It is a quandary we suspect many young men and women face these days.

You know that if you hope for a decent-paying job, one that can support yourself and a family, one with some prospect for advancement and a steadily better life, you need more than a high school diploma. You need some post-high school education.

But you also know that money is tight. Your family may be struggling economically, perhaps set back by a job loss or illness. Other siblings may also be dreaming of post-secondary education. You may have a job, but it may pay barely enough to get by, not leaving much for paying for that education that will allow you to earn more.  It’s a cruel circle.

For many people in that predicament, the state’s community colleges are often the best hope of changing fortunes. Far more affordable than even public four-year colleges and universities, they offer courses that will provide invaluable job skills across an array of professions. And if a bachelor’s degree is the goal, they can provide an economical path through the first two of those years before grappling with the higher tuition of a four-year campus.

Even so, something that may seem like a small cost from more comfortable perspectives can be daunting, even deal-breaking, if you are one of those students just barely able to come up with the vitally important tuition for a community college.

Durham Technical Community College is implementing a program that will ease the burden for hundreds of students.  Starting in August, any student who asks will be given a “GoPass” to use commuting to and from campus. 

The pass will be good for DATA buses in Durham, Raleigh’s Capital Area Transit, Cary’s CTRAN and Triangle Transit Authority buses. It will serve the Durham and Orange County campuses.

The program will cost $60,000 its first year if the projected 400 students use it.  The college will use money from student fees to pay for the program and, if ridership increases beyond the initial projections, those fees may go up a bit.

Durham Tech officials acknowledge that the cost of getting to and from campus, for students without cars or for whom the cost of gasoline for the commute might be significant, is a major concern.

“The most critical issue for students, after the cost of textbooks, is the availability of transportation,” Durham Tech President Bill Ingram told The Herald-Sun’s Greg Childress last week.

It is not the first program at Durham Tech to acknowledge and respond to the precarious finances of many students. Last year, the college opened a food pantry to help feed students in need.

“We have students that may not be able to bring food from home or may not have a home to prepare food at,” Sally Parlier, Durham Tech’s volunteer services coordinator, said last summer.

Both the pantry and the GoPass are commendable, innovative efforts to help ensure students will get the education and training they desperately need.