By Dr. Amber Richardson, Chair of the Three Rivers College Board of Trustees
At the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year, I don’t think anyone thought things would be as different as they are today. K-12 school years ended early, college classes went totally online, campuses and dorms closed, and stay-at-home and social distancing orders were enacted. The lives of students across the country were upended by COVID-19.
For high school seniors looking forward to their freshman years, and current students thinking of going back to their college towns in August, there’s a lot of uncertainty. Will everything be back to normal by then? Will the big college campus experience of dorms, lecture halls, and homecomings be anything like we expect? Will campuses have to close again at some point? For parents, these worries are amplified.
The value of a college education is undeniable—those with college degrees earn more money and have lower unemployment rates (Link to source). So it’s wise to keep working toward completing a college education.
However, when considering college options for the next school year, think about an option that will allow you (or your children) to start or continue a college education for a fraction of the cost of large universities, and do it while staying at home. That option is community colleges like Three Rivers College.
Community colleges have long excelled at providing individual attention to students, offering an affordable and high-quality education, and helping students grow and thrive in the college environment.
In fact, studies show that community college students who transfer to four-year universities do as well or better academically as students who took their lower-division courses from the university. (Source: J. Conrad Glass Jr. & Anthony R. Harrington  Academic Performance of Community College Transfer Students and “Native” Students at a Large State University, Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 26:5, 415-430, DOI: 10.1080/02776770290041774)
At just a fraction of the cost of four-year institutions, community colleges are a great value. One full year at Three Rivers costs approximately $4,000—that’s before scholarships and other financial aid. That same full year at a regional state university would cost nearly $8,000 and approximately $12,000 at a state university. This does not include the housing costs associated with an “away” college.
Also, after financial aid and scholarships, many Three Rivers students attend for free. By just completing an admissions application and submitting the FAFSA, applicants are automatically considered for more than 280 scholarships at Three Rivers.
With more than 90 transfer and career paths, Three Rivers offers something for everyone. Students can attend traditional, face-to-face classes at the Poplar Bluff campus and TRC locations in Sikeston, Dexter, Kennett, and Cape Girardeau.
If you would feel safer taking classes at home, many are offered online, including 12 fully online pathways to an associate degree. The degree programs being offered are the Associate of Arts in Teaching, Associate of Science in Administration of Justice, and the Associate of Arts with the following pathways: Business Administration, Communication, English, General Education, History, Political Science, Pre-Law, Psychology, Social Work, and Sociology. All will transfer into bachelor’s degree programs.
When it’s time to attend a four-year university, community colleges make transferring easy. Three Rivers offers a smooth pathway to transferring to colleges throughout the state and into programs offered by our University Center partners on the Three Rivers campus and external locations. Those partners are Central Methodist University, Hannibal-LaGrange University, and Southeast Missouri State University. In addition, Three Rivers has worked with Arkansas State University to ensure an easy transition into more than 20 of its programs.
I taught classes at Three Rivers as an adjunct instructor. My husband has taken classes at Three Rivers College and later taught there. His mother has worked at Three Rivers for many years. Knowing how beneficial Three Rivers College is to the community is what made me run for its Board of Trustees. Serving on its Board for these past 4 years has allowed me to see first-hand how a community college education can help people get better paying jobs and help students save thousands before transferring to universities.
As you or your children are debating college plans for the fall, remember that the choice is bigger than going away to college, taking online classes from a big college, or skipping a year. There’s a great option right in your backyard. Don’t lose this time. Maybe now more than ever, it’s important to keep working toward a better future.
For information about Three Rivers College visit trcc.edu or call 877-879-8722.
Currently, Dr. Amber Richardson is the Chair of the Three Rivers College Board of Trustees. Richardson is employed as a clinical psychologist in Poplar Bluff. She previously taught as an adjunct psychology professor for Three Rivers College and Central Methodist University. Richardson earned a bachelor’s degree from Rhodes College, a master’s degree in Counseling from the University of Memphis, and a doctorate from Fielding Graduate University. She and her husband, Todd, are blessed with two children, Sawyer and Briley.
Three Rivers College is committed to contributing to the quality of life in Southeast Missouri with quality, affordable higher education opportunities and community services that support and encourage the economic, civic, and cultural vitality of the region. For more information about college and workforce programs and upcoming events, visit trcc.edu.