2013-03-28 / Front Page

Collegiate Gem Close to Home

Annie Chesnut

Dutchess Community College students explore the campus. 
Photo Provided Dutchess Community College students explore the campus. Photo Provided For those of us currently putting children through college, there are always worries attached: How will my child fare away from home? Will she be safe? Will he be able to find a career?

But, with some private college tuitions reaching the $50,000 mark, the most prevalent concern of all for many parents is, How will we ever pay for this?

The Courier met last week with Director of Admissions Mike Roe and Judi Stokes, Director of Community Relations and Graphics, at the Poughkeepsie campus of Dutchess Community College (DCC) to learn more about what the institution has to offer.

It might be refreshing to know that your child can complete the first half of his 4-year college journey for less than $7,000: the current tuition at Dutchess, less than 40 minutes north of Philipstown, is $3,100 a year.

And if your student wants that awayfromhome experience, the campus in Poughkeepsie also has dorms—brand spanking new ones.

The modern Poughkeepsie campus. 
Photo Provided The modern Poughkeepsie campus. Photo Provided “We have students who transfer to top notch schools, including Cornell, RPI, Marist, Vassar, NYU, and great SUNY schools,” Judi told the Courier.

And with 10,000 students on two campuses in the county, there are new friends to be made from a variety of backgrounds, and even from areas other than the Hudson Valley and the tri-state area. The common denominator for all of the “away” students is that they already know someone from DCC.

There are 30 community colleges in the SUNY system, and Dutchess offers the lowest tuition of all, along with 60 programs of study. Among these are General Studies, Liberal Arts, Human Services, Nursing, English, Architecture, Business, and Criminal Justice, to name just a few. All courses are 100 and 200 level (freshman and sophomore) and students can attend part-time, full-time, or during a summer session, with more than 200 class offerings. There is an active student government, dozens of clubs, music and drama programs, and $2.7 million worth of artwork around campus.

Conklin Hall, the attractive new dormitory on the main campus in Poughkeepsie—the Dutchess South campus is in Wappingers Falls—houses 465 students in roomy, modern suites, complete with an exercise facility.

There are academic support services for students with learning differences, free tutoring, and writing, math, and business centers.

At Dutchess, Mike said, “students can really reinvent themselves.” Often, people straight out of high school are not prepared for college,” he said. Judi, herself an alumna of Nassau Community College and then Syracuse University, said, “We pride ourselves on opening those doors for students”—offering what could be described as a softer entry into the college world than you might experience at a highly competitive private school, for example. Students have the chance to learn what college is all about in a supportive setting, get basic courses under their belts, and then move on to the next stage of their careers, whether it’s furthering educations or working.

In many ways the current poor economy has been a boon for community colleges in general. “People are becoming consumers of higher education,” Judi noted. “There’s more financial literacy now.” With total tuition at some four-year schools approaching the $200,000 mark, parents are looking for better ways to finance their children’s future. Both Mike and Judi believe that DCC has been a beneficiary of this trend. For one thing, enrollment is at a record high. For another, they are seeing more traditional-aged students (18-22) than ever before, and student opinion surveys bear this out.

Judi reported that many DCC faculty have impressive pedigrees, “Masters and Doctorates from the likes of Columbia, Yale, NYU, Pace Law, RPI, etc.” and, “Among our faculty, we have … A noted archaeologist who conducts digs around the world; a lawyer who was an FBI agent; a biologist who conducts cancer research; award-winning authors, artists, musicians, photojournalists, videographers; leading engineers and architects; and experienced stage and screen actors.”

The college’s administrators are dedicated to maintaining a “collegiate feel” for students so that their transition to other colleges will be as smooth as possible. There is a cafeteria and a deli, open all day and into the night for residents. Double rooms measure 11’ x 17’—sizable by today’s standards, with microwaves, sinks, and full-size refrigerators. Soon the county’s Rail Trail bike connection will be complete, offering two-wheeled touring and commuting opportunities direct from campus.

Both Mike and Judi emphasized that DCC is a smart choice for all kinds of students, with both academic and traditional diversity, and honors as well as developmental academic programs. “We have Valedictorians and Salutatorians as well as kids who struggle,” Mike emphasized. “We can help everyone achieve their individual goals.”

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