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Editorial: Two-year degrees can produce earning power

Last Modified: Friday, February 01, 2013 7:19 PM

Recent studies have shown that students who graduate with two-year degrees are having an easier time finding jobs and are earning more money immediately after graduation, than some with four-year degrees.

Jim Purcell, State Commissioner of Higher Education, produced a study that showed a steady trend where graduates with associate degrees out-earned their bachelor’s degree counterparts by roughly $3,000 — $35,544 to $32,742 — 18 months after graduation.

But other studies show that students with bachelor’s degrees generally close the salary gap within five years and make up the entire difference in wages earned after 12 years.

Purcell’s study also showed more two-year degree graduates found jobs sooner than those four-year degrees by a margin of 72.5 percent to 59.5 percent.

Louisiana Community and Technical College System President Joe May said the country, and Louisiana in particular, needs to break out of the old mind-set that a four-year degree is the only sure route to a well-paying career.

“When we say that, we’re really talking about 20 percent of the population,” May said. “So by definition, we’re saying that 80 percent of people are a failure. That’s really the wrong message to send.”

Technology is the reason for the relatively quicker success between two-year and four-year graduates. May said more than half of the Louisiana employers are looking for people to fill engineering technician jobs have trouble finding employees with these particular skills.

“So we have a demand for technicians, and people going into process technology; and nursing; and respiratory therapy; and physical therapy; and instrumentation,” May said. “Those careers are in demand and so you’re going to see them command higher salaries.”

Barry Erwin, president of the education lobbying group, Council for A Better Louisiana, said the key for the state is to have the right balance of four-year and two-year degrees.

For the individual high school student, there are plenty of opportunities for a future career in Louisiana with either a two-year of four-year degree. With proper guidance and counseling, young people can look forward to a prosperous future in this state.

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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