What will I earn with a degree?

North Carolina is making it easier for students to predict the dollar value of college degrees, reports AP. A new state web site will provide median earnings, employment and post-degree education by major, degree and campus.

Five years after earning an associate degree in cardiovascular technology, community college graduates average $60,869. Other top-earning degrees are radiation therapy technology, fire protection technology, nuclear medicine technology and clinical trials research associate.

The median income for associate degree graduates in all subjects was $30,345 after five years. (The search function isn’t fully operational for associate degrees and doesn’t work at all for certificates.)

Nuclear engineering graduates average $89,537 a year five years after earning a bachelor’s degree. Theater graduates average $10,400.

“Of course, there are many paths to success. So this is not a recommendation, it’s just a way to arm students and families with good, useful information,” said Peter Hans, who pushed for the project when he was chairman of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.

Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, said North Carolina’s program, inaugurated last week, is one of the best at showing the value of a degree. He expects college instructors to hate it. “They don’t get up every day and think about getting somebody a job. They’re teaching history or something, so this is news to them,” Carnevale said.

All the top-paying degrees are in engineering and technology. assocdegreechart

Maine also has launched a site with earnings information by degree for community college and state university graduates.

Free college for sophomores?

Maine students should pay no tuition in their sophomore year at a University of Maine campus, proposes Rep. Mike Michaud, a Democratic candidate for governor.  “One-third of first-year students don’t continue on to their sophomore year,” the “Sophomore Year Free” plan states. “Affordability is a major obstacle” to completion.

Michaud also proposes giving the state’s community colleges an extra $1 million to add summer classes.

“Sophomore Year Free” encourages persistence, writes Matt Reed in Inside Higher Ed. “Because it holds off the reward until the second year, it pre-screens for folks who aren’t serious or capable.”

At the community college level, it would be hard to define “sophomore year.” What about part-timers, transfers and students who started out in developmental courses? “Free” would leave a lot of federal financial aid on the table.

Still, using pricing to reward desired student behavior is “worth exploring,” writes Reed.

DeVry, a for-profit, used “plateau pricing” when Reed worked there. Students paid for the first 12 credits in a semester; the next four credits were free. That encouraged them to take more credits and finish on time.

Another option is a refundable “graduation deposit” paid on enrollment. Students would get the money back only if they earned a credential. It would be a financial hardship for students, writes Reed.

If it forced students to think about their commitment to completion, it might cut enrollment drastically.

High schools may pay for college remediation

When high school graduates need remedial classes in college, who pays? Mississippi and Maine may hold school districts responsible for the costs of teaching basic skills in community colleges, notes the Hechinger Report.

In Mississippi, more than 40 percent of community college students need remediation. Fifty percent take developmental classes at Maine community colleges.

New Hampshire, Missouri, and Oregon legislators have considered similar proposals over the last five years, but bills haven’t gotten far.

“High school students, when they get a diploma . . . they ought to be able to go to college,” said Mississippi Sen. Nancy Collins, R-Tupelo. “They should not have remediation.”

Nationwide, as many as 70 percent of new community college students are placed in remedial courses, Hechinger reports.

College remediation has long been a subject of debate: It costs the states nearly $4 billion annually, and opponents say remedial courses don’t even prepare students for college level work. In Mississippi, remedial courses currently cost the same as regular classes based on credit hour, so students must foot the bill for the extra classes. Fewer than 10 percent of these students end up graduating from community colleges within three years, according to Complete College America.

These arguments have prompted more than 20 states to cut funding for remedial education. Some community colleges have started to restrict admission to students who have at least a seventh-grade proficiency level, directing them to local adult basic education classes and saving on remediation costs.

High schools and community colleges need to work together on aligning curriculum, says Kay McClenny, the director of the Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin. “Ultimately, what we need to have is not finger pointing and rock throwing across the fence of various segments of education, but really much better collaboration,” she said.

High schools are under heavy pressure to raise graduation rates. If every graduate has to be ready for college work . . . It’s not a realistic expectation. Perhaps the introduction of new, higher standards will force states to adopt a college-ready diploma and a less-rigorous diploma.

LePage: High schools should pay for remediation

Maine Gov. Paul LePage wants high schools to pay for graduates’ remedial college classes, reports the Portland Press-Herald.

Fifty-four percent of students entering the Maine Community College System need to re-learn basic skills, as do 20 to 25 percent of students at the state’s four-year universities, LePage said.

“The parents of this state pay taxes for public education, then they have to pay a second time when their kids enter college,” LePage said. “That’s inappropriate.”

Maine students spend an estimated $13 million on remedial college courses, earning no credit. “It’s going to be controversial, but you’ve got to hold their feet to the fire if you’re going to get these kids educated the way we expect them to be educated,” said LePage, who pledged to introduce a bill in the next legislative session to put the remedial burden on school districts.

Remediation is a costly burden for students and colleges, reports Education News.

Scott Knapp, president of Central Maine Community College in Auburn, said that his school feels like it has no choice but to spend its limited budget on remediation instead of capital and infrastructure upgrades or improving their programs or hiring more instructors. Even if the expenses were fully reimbursed by tuition payments, on the whole, he’d rather that his school was out of the remediation business, Knapp added.

Some 36 percent of young people in Maine hold an associate degree or higher, reports Complete College America. That’s slightly below the national average but low for New England.

Sea wolves in the corn maze

“A Path To Higher Education” was the theme of the 2011 corn maze at Goughan’s Berry Farm near Caribou in Aroostook County, Maine. My husband and I are in northern Maine visiting future in-laws. Yesterday, we spent an hour walking the maze and collecting points for findng signs with school supplies, the state universities’ word scramble (answer was “diploma”) and the mascots of Maine’s seven community colleges. We beat our family and soon-to-be family members, who quit when it started raining.

Maine’s community college mascots are the mustangs, eagles, lynx, falcons, sea wolves, polar bears and coyotes.

Maine eyes 5-year high school, early college

Maine will consider expanding early-college options, including a proposed five-year high school that will let students graduate with college credits, reports the Bangor Daily News.

Gov. Paul LePage will create a task force to recommend an early-college plan for the state.

During last year’s campaign for governor, LePage floated the idea of having high school students take introductory-level college courses so that in five years of high school, they could graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree, or two years of transferable college credits, all for free.

The proposal was part of LePage’s campaign report “Turning the Page: New Ideas to Get Maine Working.” The report said the proposal for an extra year of high school was borrowed from a similar program in North Carolina. The nonprofit Early College High School Initiative, which promotes systems that blend high school and college, says it has helped bring such offerings to nearly 30 states.

Sen. Brian Langley, R-Ellsworth, who co-chairs the Education Committee, also is a vocational teacher. Many good-paying jobs require a year of training, not a degree, he says. “We have to do more training that is tailored to the jobs that are out there and not just college or two-year degree programs.”

In the next 10 years, nearly 60 percent of jobs in Maine will require at least some amount of college education, the governor says.

From the sawmill to college to a job

When Fraser Timber laid off nearly 200 sawmill workers in Aroostook County, Maine in January, 2009, Northern Maine Community College (NMCC) had started its second semester. But laid-off workers didn’t have to wait. The college started job-training classes in mid-semester, using federal funding for displaced workers, reports Community College Times.

Two years later,  Tanya Clark, who lost her job as a grader at the mill, has earned an associate degree in medical assisting and is interviewing for jobs.

After giving up on college, Guthrey York, 28, worked at the mill for seven years. He’s now graduated with a degree in electrical construction and maintenance — and a job offer.

“At first, I wasn’t sure about going back to school. I never really had been into school much. It took me out of my comfort zone. But, after the first month or so, I really got into it,” York said. 

Other former mill workers have earned degrees in plumbing and heating, residential construction, business administration and accounting.

The sawmill called back some workers, but many of those in college decided to pursue new carers. Richard Michaud, 42, thinks his medical assisting degree will provide a more secure job than the sawmill.