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Unleash the power of the associate degree

Posted by Anthony Benoit on Jul 29, 2016 1:37:42 PM

Published in the Boston Business Journal
on 
July 29, 2016

AnthonyBenoit2.jpgChances are that you, the reader, are college-educated with a bachelor’s degree or higher. After all, Massachusetts leads the 50 states with the highest percentage of college graduates in the U.S. at 54 percent.

No wonder that in our well-educated commonwealth, bachelor’s degrees often seem mandatory, with many employers requiring them. Yet for young people in search of lower-cost, faster tracks to well-paying jobs, and adults looking for a career change, the associate degree is a valuable option.In some circles, the associate degree is still seen as inferior to the bachelor’s degree. Others see the associate degree as a lower-cost, more-accessible pathway to a bachelor’s degree and beyond. Let us celebrate the tremendous value of an associate degree on its own. About 30 percent of Americans with associate degrees now make more than those with bachelor’s degrees, according to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.


Let us celebrate the tremendous value of an associate degree on its own. About 30 percent of Americans with associate's degrees now make more than those with bachelor's degrees.


The Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development found a full 38 percent of job openings in Massachusetts between 2006 and 2016 require more than a high school diploma, but not a four-year bachelor’s degree.

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At a time when bachelor’s degree programs are priced beyond the means of so many American families and come with no guarantee of a job that would justify their expense, it’s especially important to revisit the associate degree, especially one in a field of science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) as well as other areas with strong employment demand. The Alliance for Science & Technology Research in America estimates that in the next few years Massachusetts will have 300 jobs that will require skills in STEM. Yet, while Massachusetts has a high percentage of college graduates, we simply are failing to produce enough talent with the right blend of STEM and other skills.


A full 38 percent of job openings in Massachusetts between 2006 and 2016 require more than a high school diploma, but not a
four-year bachelor’s degree.


I have advised hundreds of students who have used the associate degree as a path to a bachelor’s degree at half the cost. How? These shrewd folks get a good job with their associate degree then use their employer’s tuition-reimbursement benefit to foot the bill for further higher education.

When I speak with our associate degree alumni who have been out of my college for a few years, I am impressed by their range of accomplishments. They work in fields from business to education to healthcare to the arts. They point to their degree as the foundation from which they built success in work, society, and life.

Earning an associate degree is within the reach of many students, even those who struggle in a bachelor’s program. We need to recommend the associate degree as the valuable tool it is.

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Topics: Features, associate degree

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