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Commission on Higher Education focuses on making college more affordable

Evan Mealins

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At the quarterly meeting for the Alabama Commission on Higher Education on Friday, Commission members focused on easing the path to college for more students by making higher education more affordable.

“Student success is crucial in continuing Alabama’s economic momentum,” said Commission Executive Director Jim Purcell.

Next year’s education budget, the largest in state history, includes increased funding for the Alabama State Assistance Program (ASAP), the state’s need-based aid program. ASAP received a 30.1 percent increase in funding from last year, putting it at $5,397,551. Commission Chairman Ed Sanders praised the Legislature for this increase.

“The additional money for ASAP will help many more students be able to afford college,” Sanders said.

The Commission is taking steps to lower textbook costs for Alabama students by holding workshops on campuses aimed at educating faculty members on the use of Open Educational Resources (OER). An OER grant program is in place to help colleges and universities replace print textbooks with online digital resources in high-enrollment, entry-level courses. The program, coordinated by the Commission and the Alabama Community College System, is expected to affect 18,000 students with savings over $2 million this year.

ASAP and the OER grant program aim to ease financial burdens on Alabama students, who face some of the hardest paths to get through higher education. According to Experian, the average Alabama student faces $35,675 in student debt, ranking Alabama among the top states with the largest five-year increase in student debt.

These programs are in accordance with Alabama’s “Success Plus” Workforce Initiative, Alabama’s program for improving the statewide level of education beyond high school. Success Plus aims to add 500,000 high skilled employees to Alabama’s workforce by 2025.

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Commissioners also approved the following projects at the following colleges:

  • Enterprise State Community College
    • Associate of Applied Science – Machine Tool Technology
  • Wallace State Community College (Selma)
    • New Off-Campus Site: New Era Building
  • University of Alabama
    • Master of Science in Hospitality Management
  • Troy University
    • Doctor of Philosophy in Global Leadership
  • University of West Alabama
    • Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • Jacksonville State University
    • Master of Athletic Training in Athletic Training
  • Auburn University
    • Master of Science in Teaching English for Specific Purposes
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The Alabama Commission on Higher Education’s next meeting is on September 13.

 

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