Texans who earn a vocational certificate often earn more than associate-degree graduates in their first year in the workforce, concludes Higher Education Pays: The Initial Earnings of Graduates of Texas Public Colleges and Universities Who Are Working in Texas. Some workers with certificates earn more than $70,000 – $30,000 more than the median for graduates with bachelor’s degrees, concludes the Lumina-funded study by College Measures, a joint venture of the American Institutes for Research (AIR) and the Matrix Knowledge Group.
The median starting pay for criminal justice/police science certificate holders is $48,192, double the compared with $24,298 for those with an academic associate’s degree. Some health-care certificates allowed graduates to earn $70,000. Other high-paying certificates included: construction engineering technology/technician, electrician, pipefitting, engineering, industrial technology, and instrumentation technician.
However, not all certificates lead to high-paying jobs. Recipients of two dozen certificate programs earned less than $13,000 in their first year on the job. Cosmetologists and nursing/patient care assistants usually earned low wages.
Technical associate’s degrees pay well: The median starting salary is more than $50,000. By contrast, an academic associate degree lead to median earnings of $24,298,
First-year earnings for bachelor’s degree holders range from about $25,000 (biology) to about $47,000 (accounting): The average is $39,725.
Community college graduates’ first-year salaries vary from one college to another.
Academic associate’s degrees range from about $10,000 (Ranger College) to more than $30,000 for graduates from the Trinity Campus of Tarrant County Junior College and from Central Texas Community College.
For graduates with technical degrees, the range is even greater, from about $20,000 for graduates of Clarendon College to more than $65,000 for graduates from seven community colleges: College of the Mainland Community College District, San Jacinto College South Campus, Tarrant County Junior College South Campus, Galveston College, El Centro College, Trinity Valley Community College and Weatherford College.
A national study and analyses in Tennessee and Virginia have found similar results: Technical certificates and associate degrees often pay better than non-technical bachelor’s degrees at the start of graduates’ careers.
High schools should put “our kids on a path to a good job,” said President Obama in the State of the Union speech.
Right now, countries like Germany focus on graduating their high school students with the equivalent of a technical degree from one of our community colleges, so that they’re ready for a job. At schools like P-Tech in Brooklyn, a collaboration between New York Public Schools, the City University of New York, and IBM, students will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree in computers or engineering.
. . . Tonight, I’m announcing a new challenge to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy. We’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math – the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill jobs right now and in the future.
Many high schools offer “dual enrollment” courses that let students earn college credits — usually through a local community college — while completing high school. Moving to a German-style apprenticeship system, which explicitly prepares students for skilled jobs, not for higher education, will take a lot more than money. It will take a major attitude change from college for all to competency for all. (Competency for most?) President Obama, whose administration cut funds for career tech programs, could lead the way.
Despite high unemployment, some 600,000 jobs in advanced manufacturing and other high-tech fields are unfilled for lack of qualified workers, testified Jay Timmons, CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
Chicago is trying to fill the skills gap.
Five high schools in the Chicago Public Schools district, including Corliss High School, Chicago Vocational Career Academy, and Lake View High School, began offering career-training tracks in September. The vocational programs are aligned with the needs of area businesses such as IBM, Motorola, and Verizon, which each partnered with a school to design alternative curricula, according to the CPS Website.
. . . Students enrolled in the program can earn a technical certification and credit toward an associate degree from City Colleges of Chicago, along with a high school diploma.
Two-year technical pathways can lead to lucrative careers, notes U.S. News. “Electrical engineering technicians earn a median salary of about $56,000 with an associate degree, and the median pay for nuclear technicians is roughly $68,000 with an associate’s, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.” Radiology technicians also earn high salaries with a two-year degree.
With state funding often failing to keep up with enrollment growth, community colleges have struggled in the past decade, concludes a U.S. Treasury report, The Economics of Higher Education. Meanwhile, for-profit college enrollment has soared.
Community colleges depend on state funding, notes the Huffington Report. State funding has fallen behind enrollment gains, caught up, then lagged from 1999 to 2009, according to the report.
In 2009, community colleges received approximately $6,450 per FTE (full-time equivalent) student, only slightly higher than the $6,210 in 1999,
According to the report, the funding decline for public colleges and universities bottomed out in 2005, then slightly increased before dropping again in 2008.
Because of the budget squeeze, community colleges are pushed to either raise tuition or or to limit class size, and often choose the latter, leading to a correlating spike in for-profit college enrollment. According to the report, community colleges are “more likely to serve low-income and first-generation student populations than four-year schools, and these students now constitute the bulk of the student population at for-profit schools.”
Both community colleges and for-profit colleges primarily serve low-income and first-generation students, the report found. When public colleges put students on wait lists, the for-profits expand quickly to meet the demand. While completion rates are low for community college students, graduation rates are high for students in for-profit vocational programs of two years or less. And there are no wait lists.
Students are competing for a shot at a six-year high school in Brooklyn that offers vocational training and college classes, reports the New York Times.
By 2017, the first wave of students of P-Tech — Pathways in Technology Early College High School — is expected to emerge with associate’s degrees in applied science in computer information systems or electromechanical engineering technology, following a course of studies developed in consultation with I.B.M.
“I mean, in 10th grade, doing college work?” said Monesia McKnight, 15, as she sat in an introduction to computer systems course taught by a college professor. “How great is that?”
New York City plans to open several more schools on the P-Tech model, and other states are following suit.
“When we view high-quality C.T.E. programs, we see how engaged those students are and what clear aspirations they have for their future,” said John B. King Jr., the state education commissioner. “Unfortunately, that’s not always present in some of our struggling schools.”
In its second year, P-Tech houses ninth and 1oth graders at Paul Robeson High School, which is being phased out because of poor performance. Some 88 percent of P-Tech students qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch. Half tested below proficiency in eighth grade, but they’re already passing state Regents exams and taking college courses.
Students attend from 8:35 a.m. to 4:06 p.m., in 10-period days that intersperse traditional classes like math and English with technology and business-centric courses like “workplace learning,” which teaches networking, critical thinking and presentation skills. Second-year students are offered physics and global studies as well as the business courses and college-level courses in speech or logic and problem solving — or both. There is also a six-week summer academy for geometry.
Students who straight to the workforce will be prepared for “entry-level technology jobs paying around $40,000 a year, like software specialists who answer questions from I.B.M.’s business customers or “deskside support” workers who answer calls from PC users,” reports the Times. Students aren’t guaranteed a job at IBM, but they should have skills required by many companies as well as the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree in two years.
Each student also is paired with an IBM mentor and visits the company’s offices and labs. The principal also has an IBM mentor. The company helped train the school’s teachers and funds a full-time liaison to work with college faculty, who also helped develop the curriculum.
University education is free in Switzerland, but most students choose vocational training, Time reports.
Take Jonathan Bove. This spring, after he completed his three-year business training at an insurance company, the 19-year-old was hired by a telecommunications firm; his job as a customer care representative offers a starting salary of $52,000 a year, a generous annual bonus, and a four-week paid vacation – no small potatoes for the teenager who is still living at home and has no plans to move out. “The idea of university never appealed to me,” he says. “The vocational training is more hands-on and the path to a good job is shorter.”
After completing nine years of required schooling, two-thirds of 15 and 16 year olds choose Vocational Education and Training (VET), which combines three years of part-time classroom instruction with training at a company. The youth unemployment rate in Switzerland is less than 3 percent.
VET apprentices generate more revenues than they cost in salaries and instruction, so most companies profit from VET participation, even if they train more apprentices than they need. On average, VET graduates start at $50,000 a year.
Most young Americans won’t earn a college degree, says Nancy Hoffman of Jobs for the Future in a Nation interview with Dana Goldstein. A Swiss-style apprenticeship system would motivate young people and qualify them for good jobs, she argues.
Volkswagon is starting a European-style apprenticeship program in Tennessee, but for high school graduates. . . . You probably have to start with more internships and apprenticeships at the community college level than in high school, because most people in this country just don’t believe that 16-year-olds can be productive workers—though there is plenty of evidence they certainly can be.
Goldstein asks: Should we worry if the vocational track really is the track for working-class kids?
America’s system — College for all but failure for most — provides less economic mobility than the apprenticeship model, Hoffman argues. “The really strong countries have pathways from vocational education straight through to technical colleges,” she adds. In Switzerland, 42 percent of the highest-scoring students enter the vocational system. “If you want to be an engineer, work in IT or any of these high-tech jobs, you’re going to be much more likely to get a job after real work experience.”
Amazon will give $2,000 college scholarships to warehouse workers to pursue associate degrees in high-wage, high-demand careers such as aircraft mechanics, computer-aided design, machine tool technologies, medical lab technologies and nursing.
Labeling the initiative as an “experiment,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos wrote that the so-called Career Choice Program will give warehouse employees the opportunity to advance their careers, even if their field of choice is unrelated to Amazon.
The company said it would pay 95 percent of tuition up to a limit of $2,000 annually for four years. Workers with three years’ experience are eligible.
Last year, Amazon was accused of sweatshop working conditions at its Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania warehouse by The Morning Call.
Most Amazon workers who take the scholarship will turn to community colleges, predicts Dean Dad, who’s looking forward to “very motivated, conscientious students.”
He likes the flexibility in the Amazon plan. By contrast, “Wal-Mart contracted with a single national for-profit provider — American Public University — and only pays for employees who enroll there.”
Vocational certificates, which promise a low-cost fast track to a better job, are rising in popularity, according to a new Center on Education and the Workforce study. More than 1 million certificates were awarded in 2010, making up 22 percent of postsecondary awards. The average certificate-only workers — about 11 percent of the workforce — earns 20 percent more than a worker with only a high school diploma.
In addition to raising income, “certificates can also serve as the first rung on the ladder to a college degree related to one’s training,” the report says.
At a time when 36 million American workers who attended college did not complete a degree, certificates are piecemeal, attainable, bite-sized educational awards that can add substantially to postsecondary completion.
High-value certificates leading to higher earnings should be tracked to give a more accurate picture of postsecondary achievement, Georgetown urges.
Earlier studies have found few benefits to short-term certificates that take less than six months to complete, but the Georgetown study found some short-term certificates also lead to wage gains. In some fields, a certificate holder can earn more than a worker with an associate degree — and sometimes more than a four-year college graduate.
On average, certificate holders earn 20 percent more than high school-educated workers – about $240,000 over a high school diploma in lifetime earnings. More than 60 percent of certificates have a clearly demonstrated economic payoff over high school diplomas—i.e., earnings 10 percent higher than the median high school graduate. Moreover, even when certificates don’t provide much of an earnings boost, they can make individuals more employable, giving them access to valuable learning on the job.
After adjusting for academic preparation, “certificates look even better,” the report finds. Certificate-only workers score lower in academic skills but earn about the same compared to workers with some college but no degree.
The certificate payoff is greater for men than women, largely because of gender segregation, the report observes.
Certificates also have become popular with people who’ve earned an associate, bachelor’s or even a graduate degree, the report found. One third of people earning certificates already hold an academic degree but want to improve their job skills.
As the “is college worth it?” debate rages, the value of vocational certificates has been ignored, says Anthony Carnevale, co-author of the Georgetown report. The “college for all” push is seen as “a four-year college for all.” When certificates are counted, the nation is closer to meeting President Obama’s college completion goals, Carnevale told Inside Higher Ed.
The completion push is really about “postsecondary education and training for all,” said Carnevale. But “that doesn’t fit on anybody’s bumper sticker.”
Community colleges award 52 percent of certificates with for-profit colleges close behind at 44 percent.
It’s time to ditch college for all, writes Robert Samuelson. Enrollment has soared since the GI Bill was passed after World War II, he notes.
College became the ticket to the middle class, the be-all-and-end-all of K-12 education. If you didn’t go to college, you’d failed. Improving “access” — having more students go to college — drove public policy.
We overdid it. The obsessive faith in college has backfired.
Although college has been “dumbed down,” dropout rates are high and some graduates “aren’t learning much,” Samuelson writes. Surveys show college students are spending less time studying and doing less writing. Some 36 percent show no improvement in four years, according to the Academically Adrift study.
Worse, the college obsession is bad for high schools, Samuelson argues.
The primacy of the college-prep track marginalizes millions of students for whom it’s disconnected from “real life” and unrelated to their needs. School bores and bothers them. Teaching them is hard, because they’re not motivated. But they also make teaching the rest harder. Their disaffection and periodic disruptions drain teachers’ time and energy.
. . . Yet, vocational education is de-emphasized and disparaged. Apprenticeship programs combining classroom and on-the-job training — programs successful in Europe — are sparse. In 2008, about 480,000 workers were apprentices, or 0.3 percent of the U.S. labor force, reports economist Robert Lerman of American University. Though not for everyone, more apprenticeships could help some students.
The rap against employment-oriented schooling is that it traps the poor and minorities in low-paying, dead-end jobs. Actually, an unrealistic expectation of college often traps them into low-paying, dead-end jobs — or no job.
Lydia Dobyns of New Tech Network agrees in One Size After High School Does Not Fit All.
While 68.3% of 2011 high school seniors enrolled in college the year they graduated, “college persistence and graduation rates are shockingly low,” Dobyns writes.
We do our high school students a great disservice by suggesting they should immediately go to a four-year college upon graduation from high school — or they’ll be sentenced to a life of unskilled labor. Without introducing relevancy, rigor and career skills into high school, the college drop-out rates will continue to be unacceptable.
. . . Students need to feel they have options — to attend a community college, to delay entering college to work, to volunteer or to travel.
The unprepared and unmotivated may end up with college debt but no degree: Nearly 30 percent of college borrowers don’t complete a degree.
Should public colleges focus on academics or vocational skills? The battle lines are drawn in Massachusetts, where Gov. Deval Patrick wants community colleges to be drivers of workforce and economic development, writes Melissa Goldberg on the Workforce Strategy Center blog. But Is it the right debate? she asks.
In the Boston Globe Magazine, Jon Marcus asks whether higher education’s purpose should be knowledge or vocation.”
(Bob) Britt had watched as friends and relatives went to college only because it was expected. “They were 18, and so they went,” he says. “And when they got out, there wasn’t anything for them.” So when Britt enrolled at North Shore Community College, it was for a new kind of program that is being closely watched by industry executives and policy makers alike. It’s a program connected to the real world of work that all but guarantees its students something universities and colleges are being pressed to provide in exchange for their spiraling costs, and at a time when employers complain they can’t find workers for high-tech jobs in a fast-changing economy: useful skills.
Britt’s two-year associate’s degree program in manufacturing technology is a collaboration between the college – which furnishes faculty for classroom work – and General Electric. GE needs highly trained machinists to replace the large number of employees nearing retirement at its River Works aircraft engine plant in Lynn, which has been chugging along while recovering from the 1980s recession. GE pays the students while they learn and covers the costs of their academic courses in advanced manufacturing. That’s a high-growth field, one in which Britt is virtually assured a job after graduation that pays an average of $62,400, with ample opportunity for advancement.
“It’s not a dead end,” Britt says.
Employers want workers with an academic foundation andworkplace skills, writes Goldberg. It’s not either or. ”Everyone will need some opportunity to gain practical experience through internships, apprenticeships, or perhaps working their way through college” whether they pursue a technical or liberal arts degree. The question is: How do we enable young people to learn academic and workplace skills?
Here’s a sobering statistic: “For the first time in history, the number of jobless workers age 25 and up who have attended some college now exceeds the ranks of those who settled for a high school diploma or less,” reports Investors Business Daily.
Community colleges should “focus on their historic strength, general education,” and let for-profit colleges handle “high-cost vocational programs,” suggests Community College Dean. Vocational training is “their niche, they’re (sometimes) good at it, and they can charge enough to sustain themselves while doing it.”
Specialization makes sense, the dean argues.
One camp says that the way to compete with the for-profits is to do it all. Another says that we should become more like them, and focus more intensely on workforce training. I’m thinking those are both basically doomed. The way to thrive in the new normal is not to try to be great at everything; the world is just too big. Instead, it’s to find something you do really well, and own that. Let the for-profits handle HVAC repair and dental hygiene; let the community colleges do the first two years of four year degrees.
These days, community colleges are struggling with general education, which is hard to do when so many students are unprepared for college work. By contrast, they’re getting lots of attention and praise for workforce training. It’s easier to get students to a vocational certificate than to an associate degree.