The Essential MCLA


From The North Adams Transcript

Wednesday March 3, 2010

As many parents and students are discovering, when it comes to higher education, it's hard to beat the value of a state college, and North Berkshire's own Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts continues to stand out as a prime example. As pointed out in a report by the Massachusetts State College Council of Presidents last week, attending state college in Massachusetts is substantially more affordable for students and their families than going to public universities and private institutions in this state and New England, if not the entire country. While the brief report is relatively long on spin and short on specifics, it nonetheless contains enough information to present a convincing case. The bottom line is, Massachusetts residents will save about $4,000 per year in tuition and fees by attending a state college rather than the University of Massachusetts and roughly $20,000 per year over the average private school. 

This is true even though the cost of public colleges has nearly doubled over the last 11 years, as the state has continued to shortchange spending on higher education. And yes, fees will rise again this coming fall by $500 or more at MCLA and other public institutions as the state continues its negligence -- but that's another subject.

The fact remains that, at an average annual cost of about $6,800 in tuition and fees, state colleges are a comparative bargain, even when room and board bring the total cost to more than $15,000. Also, according to the presidents' report, those who graduate from one of the nine state college have 25 percent less debt from student loans than the national average.

From our perspective, MCLA offers the best choice of the nine state colleges for an overall education, foremost for its small enrollment -- fewer than 2,000 students, compared to 10,000 each at Bridgewater and Salem State and 5,000 each at Fitchburg and Westfield State -- but also for its excellent liberal arts programming and intimate campus in the unbeatable Berkshires setting.

This week, the college added another feather to its cap in being named to the 2009 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll by the Corporation for National and Community Service. Students here not only get a quality education, but also learn how to become responsible members of the community through mentoring programs, participation in cleanup and construction projects, assisting at-risk youth and a host of other activities. According to the college, 1,136 of about 1,700 undergraduates took part in community service projects last year. That's impressive.

While the college's Center for Services has been around under one name or another since 1993, student involvement has soared over the past decade, and MCLA President Mary K. Grant has made it a priority to further integrate the college and community.

It has also long been known that many students choose to make North Berkshire their permanent home after graduation -- alumni are numbered among our teachers, our business managers, our artists and our law enforcement and social service agencies, to name a few.

MCLA, in short, is not only a good value but a good neighbor and friend.