There’s Never Been a Better Time to Get an Associate’s Degree

The life experience of individuals who earn associate degrees after high school starkly contradicts the notion some Americans currently espouse: that higher education is hurting our country. In fact, according to a 2019 American Council on Education (ACE) report, two-year degree holders are significantly more likely to get a good job, earn more money, and someday own a home.

In a time where national higher education headlines are rife with scandalous stories, Trocaire College remains resolute in our mission to offer academics that solve family poverty right here at home. So how do we differentiate scandal from opportunity or skepticism from community transformation? I believe we do so through dialogue.

There is no question, issues like rising college debt and degrees void of job prospects are worthy of public debate. A 2017 poll indicated 36 percent of adults believe colleges and universities have a negative effect on the current direction of the country (Doherty, Kiley, and Johnson 2017).

Despite this, schools like Trocaire defy the argument. We’re kind of like a “rainbow unicorn.” In an industry full of elite private colleges and big public institutions, Trocaire provides space for mostly low- to median-income students to earn certificates and associate degrees in a small, private setting surrounded by personal attention and support – and we do it at the lowest private college tuition rate in the region. We also offer two bachelor’s degrees where the level of education meets a workforce need.

Some might say, okay, so you are a technical or career college? No.

Trocaire does turn out nurses and surgical and radiologic technicians. We graduate sonographers and phlebotomists. Pretty soon, we’ll be training data analysts and cybersecurity technicians. Yes, they are skilled practitioners; but their education is underlined by a holistic college experience. They learn to write and think critically, to work in teams and practice service. The Sisters of Mercy values upon which we were founded teach them to not only build careers, but lives of purpose. And bonus: once they are finished, the majority of our graduates become credentialed for jobs that exceed Buffalo’s median income.

All of this great work aligns with a slate of outcomes gaining national attention. According to the 2019 ACE report, students who earn an associate’s degree realize five key outcomes in early adulthood.

  1. They are 9.3% more likely to become employed than those with just a high school diploma.
  2. After earning an associate’s degree, their wages increased on average by 13.4%.
  3. They were 12% more likely to own a home.
  4. The two-year degree holders were 27.2% more likely to vote.
  5. They were 9.8% more likely to volunteer in their community.

Research continues to reveal the long-term impact of a college degree. Graduates earn more money throughout their lives, they contribute more back in taxes, and even have better health outcomes. (Ma, Pender, and Welch 2016) At the associate’s degree level, they can expect to earn $4,640 to $7,160 more per year than the high school graduate.

At Trocaire, 96.4% of graduated students who responded were employed in their field or continuing their education 6 months after graduation. These are the people filling local jobs, moving their families into higher income brackets, and making a difference in Western New York.

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