It's pretty obvious that the holidays are in full swing across southwest Kansas. Lights are glowing from trees and houses, stores are open with special offers and churches are conducting seasonal services. At GCCC, we've recently hosted our Winter Band Concert, our Vocal Music Department's Vespers Concert, the GCCC Potter's Guild Holiday Art Sale and various other events and activities.

In addition, the campus will be closing for a winter break at the end of the day on Dec. 21 and reopening the morning of Jan. 7. Before and after the break, however, there's another seasonal opportunity that offers a great deal of promise the chance to improve prospects for yourself and your family in the new year through effective and affordable higher education.

Our daytime and evening classes in the 2013 spring semester are scheduled to begin Jan. 16, but you don't have to wait until then. Public registration is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and also 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Fridays. Those hours are effective through Friday and also Jan. 7 through 15. The only scheduled exception is Jan. 14, when services will be limited in order to accommodate faculty and staff inservice sessions.

The GCCC Spring Semester Course Schedule includes literally hundreds of classes, and people with questions can call the GCCC Admissions Department at 276-9608 or reach the college switchboard for any extension at 276-7611.

We have free copies of the class schedule and assistance available at the GCCC Student and Community Services Center. In addition, there's a full listing of courses on our website, www.gcccks.edu. All you have to do when you get to our home page is click on "Search for Classes."

Access and affordability

For people interested in registering as part-time students, in up to seven hours of college credit, enrollment by telephone offers yet another option. The GCCC Phone Enrollment Hotline is 276-9653, and it's open noon to 6 p.m. each Monday through Thursday, except during the break.

It's also important to emphasize that GCCC tuition will remain unchanged from the fall semester, and it's interesting to take a look at what that means. For a full semester of 15 credit hours, tuition charges on our campus come to about $750. By comparison, the same 15 hours at one of the state universities in Kansas can cost more than $1,600, and can even rise to as much as $4,000. At the same time, for freshman and sophomore level courses, GCCC provides highly-qualified and experienced instructors, individual assistance and tutoring, much smaller classes, and the convenience of higher education right here at home.

Those advantages are part of the reason GCCC has:

* Been ranked among the top 10 percent of American community colleges for two straight years by the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program.

* Been named among the top 24 community colleges in the nation for student success by the online magazine CNN Money.

* Included on the 2013 list of Military Friendly Colleges by GI Jobs magazine.

These opportunities are enhanced by the fact that qualified students enrolling on our campus may receive federal Pell Grant allocations, federal student loans and other assistance, as well as extensive scholarship aid provided by the GCCC Endowment Association.

If you're hoping to secure your future by building stronger job skills, earning your degree, or simply expanding your horizons in 2013, then that opportunity can start as early as Jan. 16, and you can complete the enrollment process in advance. We're committed to your future and a whole new year of promise awaits. Where will you go?