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College graduate rates on the rise Leah Lewis

Kriselle Mendoza realized college was the path for her after seeing the struggles her mother went through because she never went to college. I think it (college) is important because it just opens up so many doors for you and you learn so much, even if you know exactly what you want out of life already, said Mendoza, 19, a sophomore communication studies major at Vanguard University in California. Some people attend college for personal growth, some do it because its the only thing after high school that makes sense, and some do it because the fields they want to go into require a college degree. I knew that if I tried to enter the workforce right after high school, I wouldn't be successful. I was too immature, and I had no idea what I even wanted to do in my life. While I'm still on that journey to figuring out my career path, I felt like I was more prepared after college, said Tiffany Khyla White, 23, a business management and entrepreneurship major and 2008 graduate of Louisiana Tech University. A sharp increase in completion of degrees in the past five years has been noted in a Pew Social and Demographic Trends study, not to mention the steady increase that has been occurring since 1940, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Pew research shows that 63 percent of young adults have completed at least some college or more, while 30 percent have gone on to get a bachelors degree or more.

A 1940 Census comparing data to the 2010 Census shows people older than 25 with a bachelors degree or higher was at 4.6 percent, or 3,407 people for every 75,000. In 2010, 28.2 percent of those older than 25 had earned a bachelors degree or higher. This information makes apparent the growth in the number of people pursuing a college education today. The percentage of educational attainment from 1940 until now has increased exponentially. In 2012, a little more than 30 percent, or 63,291 people obtained a bachelors degree for about every 200,000 people. The numbers seem to be steadily rising with each passing year. In Mississippi, roughly 600,000 people have graduated from college out of the estimated 2.98 million who lived in the state in 2012. Overall, the South has the lowest percentage of college graduates with a bachelors degree or higher. Mississippi is the third lowest, behind Virginia and Arkansas, according to information from a 2000 Census. While those numbers are lower than the rest of the nations college graduates, they are still growing significantly. North or South, New York to Mississippi, more people than ever are obtaining college degrees. Students want to be successful. With the job market today, they want a good paying job and not a dead end job. Plus, most jobs require you to have a degree, said Courtney Dyson, 22, a 2013 liberal arts graduate of Queensborough Community College in New York. Past and present college students say pursuing a higher education will lead to a more stable and successful job.

Going to college helps show responsibility and determination needed to persevere in more professional jobs, said Daniel Overstreet, 22, an English major and 2013 graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi. It also provides certain skills one may not have otherwise that will add to one's resume and improve their chance of being hired in the future. People without degrees are finding it increasingly difficult to pursue higher-level jobs because employers want college-educated workers. The job market is becoming more competitive, so the only way to keep up with it is to go up in education level, said Kriselle Mendoza. The need for more college-educated people in the workforce has grown, and is expected to continue to grow. According to Not Just Kid Stuff Anymore: The Economic Imperative for More Adults to Complete College, that demand will rise by 16 percent between 2008 and 2018, while the demand for other workers will stay the same. Nearly two thirds of the nation will require some form of postsecondary education for its jobs by 2018. Students are beginning to anticipate that aspect of the job market by going to college and earning their degrees. Having a college degree sets you apart from those that don't have it on their resume, said Tiffany Khyla White, a graduate of Louisiana Tech University. The workplace is very competitive, and most people won't even be considered for certain jobs without a college degree. For some, college was the only obvious path after graduating from high school.

For me, college was a natural progression from high school. I love learning and school, and when I was awarded a scholarship I knew I could go to college, said Olivia Cunningham, 20, a junior majoring in journalism at St. Johns University in New York. College helps develop specific skills needed in the workplace. Depending on what a persons major is, that can be very helpful, and in some cases, necessary. I hope to enter into the fashion industry and am currently figuring out what exactly I would like to do through specific coursework and internships, said Trina Cardamone, 20, a fashion merchandising major at Marist College in New York. The fashion industry is huge, but very competitive. Without a college education, it is hard to advance in the workplace. It is becoming the norm these days for young adults to attend and graduate college, as most statistics will show. It is just such an enriching experience that to not attend and graduate college would leave me incomplete, Cardamone said.

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Courtney Dyson, Queensborough Community College Tiffany Khyla White, Louisiana Tech University Danny Overstreet, University of Southern Mississippi Kriselle Mendoza, Vanguard University Olivia Cunningham, St. Johns University Trina Cardamone, Marist College

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