THE fact that college is costly is hardly a news flash. People earning sheepskins from public colleges or nonprofit universities in 2018 left owing an average of $29,200 in student-loan debt, according to the Institute for College Access and Success. Some of those grads are paying for degrees that don’t have much relevance in the real world.

But residents in the Fredericksburg region have an alternative: Germanna Community College. And now there’s another good reason local students should consider it.

Germanna, one of 23 members of the Virginia Community College System, recently was honored for the second time by the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. It is one of 150 schools chosen from a pool of about 1,000 colleges nationwide that are competing for the $1 million prize for community-college excellence given out by Aspen.

Colleges are chosen for their “strong and improving student outcomes in learning, completion rates, employment rates and earnings.”

In other words, Germanna does a good job of educating its students, keeping them in school and providing them with employable skills. And it does this at bargain rates compared with four-year schools.

This comes on the heels of a study earlier this year in which WalletHub ranked Germanna as tied for first among Virginia’s two-year institutions and 24th nationally.

Germanna has about 12,000 students (including those in workforce training) at its sites in Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania, Stafford, Orange, Culpeper and Caroline counties. Chances are you know someone who went to or is connected to the school.

Since Germanna was founded in 1970, it has become an ever-larger part of the Fredericksburg region.

A few of the high points:

  • Through the Gladys P. Todd Academy, begun by local philanthropist Doris Buffett, Germanna enables low-income, first-generation students to earn associate degrees before graduating from high school so that they can transfer to a four-year school with no debt;
  • As part of Build Virginia, it works to fill the need for more construction and manufacturing jobs;
  • It is working with the University of Mary Washington to provide the shortest, clearest (and least expensive) path to a bachelor’s degree;
  • It supplies most of the nurses and health care workers in our region.

And last but not least, it is the No. 1 producer of workforce credentials in the entire state.

Hats off to Germanna Community College for being recognized nationally for excellence in fulfilling its mission. We’d be a poorer community without it.

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