A moment to celebrate, a moment to remember, but also an opportunity to reflect on what careers and goals to strive for in the future. With decorations, parties, and a ceremony; a cap and gown symbolizes perseverance, dedication, and an end to a chapter. Graduation marks the moment students reach when they successfully complete all requirements to academically receive a degree, certificate and/or credentials for their chosen career path.
Seniors in high school, college and beyond who complete credentials are one step closer to finding a career path. According to the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC), in the 2018- 2019 academic year, the Pierce College District awarded 2,663 credentials to students. 1,928 of these credentials were associate degrees, making 72% of the graduates in the Pierce District associate degree-seeking students.
Throughout all of Washington state, during the 2017-2018 academic year, over 15,000 Associate in Arts degrees were awarded. This is the most popular degree pursued in the community colleges and the most-transferred degree, according to SBCTC. At the Puyallup campus, 479 students who received an AA transferred the degree to a four-year institution to continue their educational path.
University of Washington-Seattle was the top transferred to university during the 2016-2017 school year, with 15% of graduates transferring to this institution. Pierce Puyallup had an overall graduation rate of 30% and a transfer-out rate of 53% in fall 2015.
Brian Benedetti, the director of marketing and communications at Pierce College, says that, for some students, starting at a community college is typically less expensive than at a university. A student in community college can pay tuition as little as $3,500, or even less depending on residency, according to the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS). In-state and out-of-state students at Pierce pay close to $2,000 annually; while international students pay over $4,000.
In community colleges, the class sizes are generally smaller than that of a university, meaning more personal interactions between students and professors.
“…students often find that they get just as good, if not better instruction as well as better access to their professors at a community college,” says Benedetti.
Associate degrees in biology, business or in the arts for example, have a direct-transfer agreement (DTA) with some four-year universities in the state. A DTA satisfies core requirements and minor degree-seeking requirements of four-year institutions. A possibly major reason why a student transfers out of community college to a four-year institution, with or without a degree, is due to the type of credential the student is seeking.
At a university, there’s a higher probability for students to pursue a bachelor’s, master’s and/or doctorate degrees. This might explain why students at community colleges are prone to earn an associate degree, which is estimated to take two years to complete; compared to a bachelor’s degree or masters which is estimated to take an additional two to four years after completing an associate degree.
Within the Pierce District, 73% of transfers completed an associate degree during the 2016-2017 year, according to SBCTC. However, there can be discrepancies in correlation between what demographics are likely to earn or pursue a college credential. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), in fall 2015, 60% of students enrolled at the Puyallup campus were female, but only 26% graduated.
It’s similar for race/ethnicity, with 6% of enrolled students being African-American, compared to 54% being white. There are many factors that can contribute to these statistics.
Benedetti says major demographics within the Pierce College community are first-generation students and running start students.
Running Start is a dual-enrolled program for juniors and seniors in high school who can earn college credits in a community college. This can also result in an associate degree, if the student chooses. Over 67% of Pierce College students are first-generation. At the Puyallup campus, of over 4,000 students, 26% are a part of the running start program, according to Benedetti and NCES.
With this in mind, Benedetti says a number of students aren’t familiar with the college system and are trying to figure out a way to navigate through it.
“Many of our students also face pressing, impossible choices nearly every day: dinner or daycare? Rent or classes? Textbooks for hospital bills? Pierce College is working harder than ever to help students navigate these challenges,” says Benedetti.
With an associate degree one year after graduating (depending on the major), students can earn, on average, between $20,000 and $40,000 in Washington state. With a bachelor’s degree one year after graduating, students can earn between $25,000 and $60,000; according to the Education Research and Data Center (ERDC).
To ensure students are on track to graduate, Pierce College has a variety of different resources and programs available to students. Launched in fall 2018, Pierce College Career Pathways features an individualized plan for students to help with finding a career that aligns with their interests, overall making students earn degrees faster. Pierce also has Student Success advising, counseling and grants that help with students’ needs in and out of the classroom.
For more information, visit https://www.pierce.ctc.edu /pathways. For students planning to graduate after spring 2020, make sure to complete a Degree and Diploma Application by April 15.
For more information on what to expect for graduation, visit https://www.pierce.ctc.edu/graduation.
The Puyallup Post is the award-winning news media of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2018. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @thepuyalluppost