Friday, June 21, 2013

New "Salary Surfer" website unveiled

What is the return on investment for an associate degree or a certificate of completion from one of California’s community colleges?

The public can learn the answer to that question for 179 different programs offered at any of California’s  112 community colleges by visiting a new website,  and scrolling to the program in question.  State Community Colleges Chancellor Brice W. Harris unveiled the new program at a news conference held at Grossmont College on Wednesday, June 19.

The site looks at median incomes for students two years before they entered the programs, and two years and five years after they complete the programs, Harris told a news conference in the state-of-the-art Health and Sciences Complex at Grossmont College.

“This groundbreaking tool validates that California community colleges produce a tremendous return on investment for our state,” he said.  “Nearly 45 percent of students who graduated with an associate degree and did not transfer to a four-year college earned more than $54,000 annually five years after getting their degree,” he said.  For comparison purposes, he added, “that is the median wage of someone with a bachelor’s degree living in California.”

Harris said about 25 percent of those graduates with associate degrees earned median wages of more than $77,000 five years after graduating.  Some of the highest earning areas five years after graduation, Harris said, are “electrical and power systems transmission, $96,200; physician assistant $95,700 and radiation therapy technician, $91,300.”

Holding the news conference at Grossmont College afforded Harris the opportunity to tour the college’s modern complex for the health professions.  He and an entourage visited high tech areas that included simulation laboratories with mannequins programmed to respond as patients; a casting room for orthopedic technology; a cardiovascular cauterization laboratory, including EKG and ultrasound labs; a high-tech respiratory lab; and a mock apartment showing how homes may be modified for disabled patients.

Michele Tarbet, chief executive officer of Sharp Grossmont Hospital, said community college programs such as those at Grossmont College provide the hospital with many key staff members who are trained in medical specialties. She noted that heavy concentrations of the hospital’s nurses and cardiovascular technicians are Grossmont College graduates

Eric Lund, general manager of San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce, said the new Salary Surfer website makes it clear that community colleges not only educates students  who plan to go to four-year colleges, but also play a vital economic role in providing state residents with training for necessary and important jobs.

Putting it in personal terms, he said a daughter, Ashley, studied in the medical field at Grossmont College, joined the staff of Sharp Grossmont Hospital, and now is working in the medical field in Connecticut.

Patrick Perry, vice chancellor of technology, research and information systems for California Community Colleges told the audience it took six months to develop the salary-tracking tool, using data obtained from the California Employment Development Department.  It joins other tools set up in Florida, Virginia, and Texas.

Some occupations and comparative salaries listed on the website include:

  • Cardiovascular technician, degree:  $71, 841 (five years after graduation); $62,211 (two years after graduation) and $12,298 (two years before graduation).   For those obtaining a certificate in the same field, with fewer requirements than a degree, the figures were $66,747 (five years later); $56,925 (two years afterwards) and $14,566 (two years prior). 

  • Dental assistant degree-holders showed a salary of $33,178 (five years after graduation; $25,824 (two years after graduation) and $12,310 (two years before.)  

  • Physician’s Assistant Degrees garnered $95,727 (five years after graduation); $70,068 (two years after graduation) and $15,163 (two years before graduation).

Harris said that by studying the charts, students and their parents can make informed choices but noted that a career choice shouldn’t be based solely on salary potential.

“Follow your passions and interests,” he said.

Cindy Miles, chancellor of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District, welcomed the participants and about 50 attendees to the news conference.  Manuel Baca, president of the board of the California Community Colleges, said after touring Grossmont College’s health and sciences complex that one of his goals is to make sure that students throughout California eventually have access to similar state-of-the-art facilities.