Best value colleges in Whatcom County

Higher education has the power to advance your skills, multiply career opportunities and increase net worth. However,investing in yourself and good college education has become an increasingly expensive endeavor. Luckily, colleges in Whatcom County offer students some of the best value education in the state.

According to SmartAsset’s fifth annual best value colleges study, four colleges in Whatcom County offer students a high return on their investment. The colleges include Western Washington University, Whatcom Community College, BellinghamTechnical College and Northwest Indian College.

The study examined public and private institutions across Washington state. The methodology included the cost of attendance with factors like tuition, student living costs and average scholarships/grants offered. The cost was then compared with what students get in return such as starting salary and retention rate.

Western Washington University ranked fifth in the state for the overall best value. According to the study, in-state tuition costs for Western are $7,903. Living costs, which includes room and board, books, supplies, transportation and personal expenses were $14,751. Western offers an average of $6,189 in scholarships and grants. The university has an 81 percent retention rate. Western also ranked seventh in the state for the highest average starting salary for graduates at $53,000.

Overall, public colleges in Washington offer students a fair return on their investment. One of the ways Western has been able to keep costs low is by working with the state legislature, said the president of Western Washington University, Sabah Randhawa.

Together with the legislature we have kept the tuition increases to inflation over the past several years for Washingtonians,”Randhawa said. “If you look at our tuition costs I still believe Western and public education in Washington is really an excellent bargain.”

When it comes to the most affordable tuition costs, Bellingham Technical College ranked third in the state. Tuition for BTCis about $2,200, said president of Bellingham Technical College, Kimberley Perry. The BTC Foundation awards roughly$1,200 – $1,500 per student for the year. The college has a completion rate averaging at 50 percent. The average starting salary for BTC graduates is $63,000.

I don’t think the financial resources available to students are as widely known as the cost of attending college is, Perry said. About 60 percent of BTC students qualify for financial aid which can pay for all or some of their education and living expenses.

One of the ways that BTC has been able to keep costs low for students is by reducing the credit load by about 13 units per program. Students can gain the same knowledge and expertise in a shorter amount of time which helps minimize the overall cost to students, Perry said.

The programs offered are BTC is necessary to keep this economic engine running primarily in Whatcom and Skagit County, Perry added. The college offers programs in fields such as healthcare, welding, electrical, machining and processing technology.

The cost of living is a major component when it comes to getting a return on your investment. Living costs include things such as room and board, books, supplies, transportation and personal expenses. Northwest Indian College ranked number two in the state for the most affordable living costs. The average living cost for an NWIC student was $9,552.

Whatcom Community College also made the list for having affordable student living costs. Whatcom Community College ranked number six in the state. The average living costs for students at Whatcom Community College is $11,811.

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