Get ready, get set, graduate

The community college system plays a vital, irreplaceable role in our society, communities and our global competitiveness.

According to the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Research, if Texas wants to become a stronger competitor globally, it needs a plan that helps more people earn college certificates or degrees.

Today, the average annual earnings is $30,400 for high school graduates, $38,200 for someone with an associate’s degree, $52,200 for a bachelor’s degree, $62,300 for a master’s degree and $89,400 for a doctoral degree.

At 32 percent, Texas ranks 39th among states in the share of adults ages 25 and older who have earned at least an associate’s degree. Projections show, 56percent of all jobs in Texas will require some kind of post-secondary education or training by 2018.

There are 1,173 of these two-year institutions across the U.S. Nearly 12 million people attended community colleges and 40 percent of these individuals are full-time students. Community college students now account for 43 percent of all undergraduate students in the U.S.

Many students begin questioning the importance of a college education from high school itself. Some feel that being able to earn money immediately after school is the more attractive option and they convince themselves that a college education is not that important in the long run.

Others may find the cost of higher education prohibitive and have other responsibilities to take care of. But students need to understand that attending college provides opportunities and advantages that others might find lacking in someone who did not attend.

Many students attend a two-year college to qualify for admission to more competitive colleges. After earning an associate’s degree, students are able to transfer their course credits toward earning a bachelor’s degree at a four-year college or university.

Community college is a great option for adults who are employed on a full or part-time basis. Indeed, 56 percent of all current students are enrolled in a community college are over the age of 22.

The degree programs in these schools represent a way to invigorate a stalled career, or to acquire education toward an entirely new field of employment.

There is no doubt that colleges and universities today carry a heavy price tag, but this should not discourage anyone from attending. As the cost of tuition increases, so do the financial aid options, but to remain economically competitive the state needs to produce more graduates.

According to the report made by the Pennsylvania Institute of Research, students in 2009 were paying 72 percent more for college than they were six years prior, when the Texas Legislature deregulated tuition.

The truth of the matter is that there are only advantages to graduating with a college degree.

A college degree gives someone a sense of accomplishment and confidence that may be just what is needed in your professional and personal life.

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