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December 20, 2014

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Students weigh college options

Nevada State, CSN see enrollment rise as economy falters

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Keith Shimada / Special to the Home News

Victoria Dario. left, speaks with Raymond, Stephanie, 17, and Ronda Vega at Nevada State College in Henderson Jan. 8.

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Jamie Croft, left, 17, and Chris Croft talk with Malinda Breeley at Nevada State College in Henderson Jan. 8.

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Prospective students talk with staff at Nevada State College in Henderson Jan. 8.

There was more than excitement written on the faces of prospective students attending Nevada State College's Thursday open house. They also carried with them the burden of a faltering economy, which has hit their parents' savings hard and eliminated some of their jobs.

Hard times have made Nevada State more appealing with its comparatively low tuition and proximity to home.

Foothill High School senior Jamie Croft's father was laid off from a civil engineering job before Christmas, sending her scrambling for financial assistance.

The booth with information on financial assistance was busy throughout the evening.

"I think it's going to be real expensive right now," Croft said. "Parents can't help their kids out."

The heightened standards for the state's Millennium Scholarship have only compounded the financial picture as Croft now falls just shy of the requirements.

Before financial assistance was not looked at as a necessity, her father Chris Croft said. Now Jamie Croft said she is nervous and has settled on attending either the College of Southern Nevada or Nevada State to pursue a career as a nurse or dental hygienist.

"It's cheaper that way and closer," she said. Though, she added, with a little frustration, "College should be free."

High schoolers are not the only ones headed to college. President Fred Maryanski said Nevada State and CSN have both seen their enrollments increase for the upcoming spring semester — a situation he thinks is fed by those returning to school after losing their jobs.

"Many need additional credentials to move up," he said.

This is a common occurrence in a contracting economy, he said, and he thinks students will gravitate to public institutions like Nevada State, where education is less expensive. He noted 70 percent of Nevada State students support themselves financially.

"It's more affordable than going away," Maryanski said.

Mojave High School senior Marisa Scott has had her college choices winnowed by the economy. The Las Vegas native longed to experience life outside the city, considering colleges in Massachusetts and Utah State University. Now Nevada State has risen to her top choice for elementary education.

"I wanted to have other options," she said, but "we don't have the money right now."

Her mother, Debi Lotta, said her husband, who works in construction, had been unemployed for a year, and their investments have plummeted as well.

The situation marked a drastic change since Scott began her college search more than a year ago.

"I wasn't too worried until now," she said. "The economy is a lot different than it was."

But the family's financial picture has brightened slightly recently, as they paid off the house in July and Lotta's husband regained employment.

"Now we can focus on her future," Lotta said. "We're not one of the unfortunate ones in foreclosure. I'm just very proud of her."

To assist with college costs, some parents have been saving, but the declining stock market has taken a toll. Green Valley High School senior Stephanie Vega has been working at a grocery store for just this reason. So far, she has also applied for seven scholarships.

"We'll try to subsidize her as much as we can," said Vega's father, Raymond Vega. "Our money invested has been cut in half, thanks to the stock market."

But like the fact that Nevada State is closer to home than her daughter's other choices, and he will not have to worry about room and board.

"Thank God she's been working," he said. "We just have to take it one day at a time. You've got to have a competitive education."

Dave Clark can be reached at 990-2677 or [email protected].

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