The Right Amount of Higher Education

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You don’t have to commit to four years of college to increase your income

In choosing a career, it’s important to know your personal interests and talents, the job outlook for occupations matching your interests and talents, the education required, and the earnings you can expect—annually and over a lifetime.

Several recent economic studies shed light on the outlook for national and local jobs, and help answer the question, “How much higher education do I need?”

infographicMore job openings for skilled workers

A 2010 study from Georgetown University “Help Wanted: Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements through 2018,” included these two conclusions:

By 2018, the U.S. economy will create 46.8 million job openings and 63 percent of these will require workers with at least some college education.

By 2018, the postsecondary system will have produced 3 million fewer college graduates than demanded by the labor market.

While 65 percent of workers with a high school diploma and no college experience have household incomes placing them in the middle class or above, completion of an associate’s degree raises this proportion to 80 percent. Earning a bachelor’s degree pushes the proportion in the middle class or above to 86 percent.

Middle-skills jobs on the rise

One in every five jobs and nearly half of those that pay $35,000 or more a year are “middle-skills” jobs that require training beyond high school, but less than a bachelor’s degree.

These jobs include nurses, computer support specialists, auto mechanics, dental hygienists, fitness trainers, heating and air conditioning mechanics, hairstylists, paralegals, pre-school teachers, and medical laboratory technicians.

These middle-skill jobs are quite varied. In some you work with your hands, some you work with logic and numbers, and in others you work with people.

Middle-skills jobs and middle-class pay 

In The College Payoff, labor market economists at Georgetown University indicate that 28 percent of workers with an associate’s degree earned more than the median earnings of workers with bachelor’s degrees.

That’s worth repeating: Nearly 3 in 10 workers with associate’s degrees earn more than half of the workers with bachelor’s degrees. The high earnings of registered nurses have a lot to do with that, but it’s not just nurses.

The economic benefit of additional education and training over a lifetime can be substantial.

Some postsecondary education, even without earning a degree, adds nearly one-quarter of a million dollars to lifetime earnings.

An associate’s degree is worth over $420,000 in lifetime earnings above what you can expect to earn as a high school graduate.

Add it up and the middle looks like a pretty nice place to be!

Craig Clagett, Laura Lyjak Crawford

Preparing for College Priority at WVNCC High School Students Assisted

West Virginia Northern Community college currently is working with local high schools and vocational schools to offer selected students College Transition 101, a no cost class designed to help students prepare for the rigors of post-secondary education.

The class is offered at the high schools and will improve chances of student success as they transition to college academics. Topics covered in the class include:

  • Test taking strategies
  • Note-taking, time management
  • Assessment of learning styles and career choices
  • Financial literacy
  • Financial aid, scholarship and college terminology

The project is funded by the West Virginia Legislature. All books and materials for the class are supplied. Students successfully completing the class receive college credit and establish a WVNCC transcript while still in high school.

Details of the one credit hour special topics College Transitions course are as follows:

A course designed to provide high school career and technical education students with the knowledge to prepare for the transition from high school career tech programs to community/technical college in a defined pathway. Structure of the College Transitions class is flexible to fit the scheduling of the career tech classes in high schools and career tech centers. The class can be adapted to individual career tech classes or to student pull out from several classes. It is organized for career tech high school seniors and juniors to assist in moving those students toward a logical/appropriate major (program of study.) The College Transitions class is focused on the following Learning Outcomes:

  • Goal setting, including career and major decisions
  • Thinking critically
  • Developing technical research and information literacy skills
  • Note taking and test taking
  • Expanding memory skills
  • Team building/leadership roles
  • Understanding and navigating college financial aid and the college application process
  • Evaluating the Asset/Compass to better prepare for college

Text is “Focus on Community College Success” second edition. Students will be enrolled as early entrance students in community college.

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