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Spokane lands spot on list of best places to work your way through college

Gonzaga students take to heart the message from Sherman Alexi after he delivered the commencement address, May 14, 2017, in the Spokane Arena. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga students take to heart the message from Sherman Alexi after he delivered the commencement address, May 14, 2017, in the Spokane Arena. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

For Spokane Falls Community College student Salvador Pina, the decision to work as a ramp agent at Spokane International Airport and go to school at the same time was a no-brainer.

“It was really convenient for me,” he said. “And I just like the area.”

And with relatively little traffic, low rent and many public colleges, Spokane proved to be the best place for the Walla Walla native to get his occupational therapist assistant degree. He works long days, getting to work about 4 a.m. and typically going to bed around 11 p.m. each night, but he said it’s a lot easier for him to manage work and school here than somewhere else.

He’s not the only one who thinks Spokane’s a good place to avoid student loan debt: The city recently came in 13th on a Magnify Money’s list of the best places to work your way through college while living on your own. Springfield, Missouri, was the website’s top-rated city in the category, with St. Louis, Missouri; Little Rock, Arkansas; Knoxville, Tennessee; and Kansas City, Missouri, rounding out the top five.

The creators of the list used a ranking system based on four factors: local rent compared to national average, average in-state tuition, minimum wage and unemployment rates. There are two separate lists on the page: one for students who live on their own and one for students who live with their parents. Having rent costs covered makes cities like San Francisco or Seattle a lot more affordable. Spokane was 13th on the list to live on your own and 24th on the list to live with parents.

David Meany, Eastern Washington University spokesman, said the school does a number of things to keep tuition costs down. It sends lobbyists to the state Legislature to advocate for funding and holds fundraisers for student scholarships.

“We’re not just hoping every year we can keep tuition down,” he said. “We’re doing things to raise money for the school.”

Many of the students attending community colleges work while in school, Community Colleges of Spokane spokeswoman Annie Gannon said. In fall 2016, 20 percent of students at CCS schools were working full time and 29 percent were working part time. Many were seeking employment.

CCS schools try to give out as much financial aid as they can, Gannon said. The CCS foundation provides $500,000 in student scholarships each year, she said. The school also has a food bank and offers childcare.

“You have to maneuver a lot,” she said. “We’re always looking for ways to make things attainable.”

The other living-on-your-own cities in the top 10 of the Magnify Money ranking were: Lakeland, Florida; Des Moines, Iowa; Salt Lake City; Cincinnati; and Palm Bay, Florida.

Magnify Money is a consumer-oreinted website that offers editorial content, commentary from experts, tools and resources to help consumers compare financial products and make informed financial decisions.


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