Hudson Valley Colleges Provide Affordable and Competitive Education

Local colleges can make the cut

(Mount St. Mary College)

Hudson Valley parents should know that their kids can get a quality education at a local college without the high priced tuitions that other colleges come with.  Going for one of the top ten schools is not always the best way to go.

In fact, Martha O’Connell, executive director of Colleges that Change Lives, a Maryland non-profit organization dedicated to assisting students search for colleges, says “look beyond name recognition when searching for colleges,” since that leaves students open to more  possibilities for colleges that can be a great fit. 

Perform a self-inventory
Students should perform a “self-inventory,” she adds, and personal needs, desires, learning styles and interests. This is the starting point for finding colleges that fit the individual rather than simply focusing on a brand name or the top 20.

It may also remind students that local institutions can provide a terrific college experience. 

"A local college may suit a student who isn’t ready to leave home or is uncertain of their educational goals,” says Mike Albright, director of communications for SUNY Orange in Middletown. The college is not only affordable, it offers a strong academic program, but, he says, “It prepares students for their next phase of life whether it’s moving on to a four-year school or entering the workforce. In fact, those students who transfer to a new school are traditionally quite successful, often outperforming upper-class students who began their academic career at that school.”

Students should attend a college where they believe they’ll be the most comfortable, Albright continues, and if they plan on transferring from a two-year to a four-year to strategize accordingly.  They should discuss that plan in detail with an academic advisor so students make sure to take the required courses to complete their two year degree, and ones that will meet the transfer requirements of their next institution.

“Typically, credits are easily transferrable from a two-year accredited college to Mount Saint Mary, if courses are similar and the grade is C or better,” says Nancy Scaffidi, associate director of admissions for Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh. The college has an “articulation agreement” with local community colleges which can make the most of credits and make transferring easier if students follow curriculum maps. She adds, “Until your child has a solid idea of what they would like to study, it’s best to complete core requirements, which generally transfer, and which they’ll need regardless of [their major].”

Over at Marist College, Dean of Admissions, Kent Rinehart explains that each matriculated student is assigned a faculty advisor who helps them explore majors, choose courses wisely and make the most of what Marist has to offer. Undeclared students are generally placed with a faculty member or administrator who works closely to help them seek out an area of study that's consistent with their interests, abilities and future plans.  “Marist has significantly upgraded their campus in the past decade,” says Rinehart, “with the goal of taking advantage of the college’s picturesque location on the eastern shore of the Hudson River, further transforming the campus into one of the most scenic institutions of higher education in America.”

College amenities are big factors
As for the amenities offered at colleges, it seems to vary by campus and by student. Kent Rinehart says, “[Kids] are more interested in academics and the opportunities for internships and traveling abroad, and athletic students are interested in sports.  All students are interested in the residence halls…who they are going to be living with, what they’re like and where they are from. Parents seem to be most concerned with meal plans.”

Nancy Scaffadi, from Mount Saint Mary which is set along the Hudson River, says, “At the Mount, prospective students seem to be most interested in the residence halls. Families consistently comment on our updated facilities, specifically our freshman residence area, Sakac Hall. They’re usually also impressed with our state of the art nursing, science and computer labs. Families also frequently comment on the overall beauty of the campus, especially its scenic views.”

In the end, everyone involved in the college search field says the process should be enjoyable and memorable, not an exercise to be dreaded. “Students who are willing to investigate beyond the narrow band of highly visible colleges will find options that lead to a great fit and a worthwhile college experience,” O’Connell says. 

Dawn Marie Barhyte is a former educator and widely published freelance writer who resides in Warwick with her family.