The California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office (CCCCO) has been building up their online transparency and accountability lately with online tools to report on student success while in school and, now, how much money those students make as graduates.
Salary Surfer allows students, the public, educators, and business leaders to track median salaries of those who complete certificate or associate degrees, in a specific community college program, and then enter the workforce.
With these sites, California’s community colleges have showed a renewed effort to connect available, good-paying jobs with the education system and to prepare a next-generation workforce.
“We’re not the first community college system in the nation to do this, but I would argue it is the best,” said Brice Harris, chancellor of the California Community Colleges. “This groundbreaking tool validates that California community colleges produce a tremendous return on investments for our state.”
Salary Surfer breaks down the annual incomes for those who complete 179 of the most widely enrolled programs. The numbers also show paychecks for graduates two years before earning the award, then two years and five years after getting a certificate or degree.
“Students who complete an associate degree more than doubled pre-degree earnings after just two years in the workforce and nearly tripled those earnings after five years,” said Harris.
The U.S Census Bureau reports the average income for someone with a bachelor’s degree in California is $55,000.
“According to our numbers, nearly 45 percent of students who graduated with an associate degree earned more than $54,000 annually, five years after receiving the award. Twenty five percent with an associate degree had annual salaries of more than $77,000 five years after graduating,” said Harris.
That’s higher than the median income for Californians with a master’s degree.
Helen Benjamin, chancellor of the Contra Costa Community College District is “excited about this new tool because it will be very helpful to students in understanding their education options.”
“This tool is tangible evidence that, over time, there is an increase in earnings with a commitment and investment to complete their education,” said Benjamin.
California Community Colleges Vice Chancellor for Workforce and Economic Development Van Ton-Quinlivan said the data once again shows that earning a certificate or degree translates to real value in the labor market.
“These are some powerful numbers to be gleaned from this site,” said Ton-Quinlivan. “For instance, someone with a certificate as a diagnostic medical sonographer can hope to attain a median income of $85,319 five years after graduation and we have multiple campuses throughout the state offering that certificate program. Our community colleges train 80 percent of the state’s law enforcement personnel, firefighters and emergency medical technicians and police academy certificate holders are earning a median annual wage of $70,520 after five years in the field.”
David Rattray, senior vice president of Education and Workforce Development for the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, said the website will be broadly promoted throughout the business community so there’s greater awareness of the importance of community colleges in the state.
“Markets work better when there is perfect transparency or knowledge by all players,” said Rattray. “They’re going to see employers further understand how effective our community colleges are at training and skills gains. They’re also going to see what community colleges have successful completion of degrees when they’re searching for candidates for their companies.”
The information on Salary Surfer comes from an agreement with the California Employment Development Department. Not all graduates earning wages are found on the site. Excluded are those who were employed by the federal government, those who are self-employed or employed out of state and those who move on to a four year degree.
A few months ago, the state’s community college system released the Community Colleges’ Scorecard, an online tool where folks can track student population success as well as find out how well colleges are doing in remedial instruction, job training programs, retention of students and graduation and completion rates.
“The California Community Colleges becomes the most transparent and accountable system of public higher education in the nation,” said Harris.