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Study shows two-year college graduates out-earning bachelor’s degree holders

Texas grads who earn technical associate’s degrees average $11,000 more in first-year salary

December 12, 2013

Go to a university. Get a degree. Make a nice living.

Mom and Dad’s advice is well-intentioned, but recent studies show four years of school, a bachelor’s degree and a mountain of debt aren’t earning university graduates as much as two-year college graduates upon entry into the workforce.

According to a recent report, Texas graduates who earn a technical associate’s degree average $11,000 more in first-year salary than students who earn bachelor’s degrees. Technical associate degrees include information technology, dental hygiene, veterinary technician and some accounting programs.

Ann Reynolds“Two-year colleges are really pretty important,” said Ann Reynolds, academic advisor at the Blinn College – Bryan campus. “I don’t think we get to toot our own horn enough. Our job is not just to get students started. There are two different tasks here – preparing students for four-year universities and preparing students for the job market.”

Reynolds serves as co-chair of the Two-Year College Knowledge Base Committee for the Southern Association of Colleges and Employers (SoACE), a volunteer-driven organization that aims to bridge education and the world of work.

At the annual SoACE conference held recently in Chantilly, Va., Reynolds and colleague Ryan Long, campus recruiting manager at Vector Marketing, shared their findings in “Historical Changes on the Rise: Two-Year Degrees, Four-Year Degrees and New Hiring Trends.”

“When we first started seeing these reports we thought, ‘What’s wrong with this picture?’ We kept checking and double checking,” Reynolds said, adding that the pair combed through Forbes, CNN Money, and checked their facts with the U.S. Department of Labor and the Texas Coordinating Board.

The median first-year earnings for a graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Texas is approximately $39,000, whereas students with two-year technical degrees earn more than $50,000. The trend is similar in Arkansas, Colorado, Tennessee and Virginia, though the earnings gap is greatest in Texas.
A two-year degree not only makes first-year graduates good money, it also saves them in college expenses. Tuition and fees at a state university are often two to three times that of two-year colleges—a 16-hour course load at Blinn costs about $2,073, when a 12-hour course load at Texas A&M University costs $4,353.

While technical associate’s degree graduates open their careers with higher salaries than many graduates with bachelor’s degrees, Reynolds said two-year college graduates eventually hit a ceiling that limits their opportunities for career advancement and higher salaries.

“Students need to know that their education at Blinn is not just a flash in the pan,” Reynolds said. “More education will be there for them when they are ready, but we can help them to make a better-than-average living in the meantime.”

Blinn enrolled 18,413 students this Fall and has experienced 31.1 percent growth since 2006. Founded in 1883, the College’s tuition and fees average about one-third the cost of the same classes at most four-year public universities in the state. In addition to its campuses in Brenham, Bryan, Schulenburg and Sealy, the College teaches online courses, dual credit for high school and prepares students for quick employment through its career and technical certification programs.

Registration for Blinn’s upcoming Winter minimester is available through Dec. 13, and students can register for the Spring semester through Jan. 12. For more information, visit: