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The Benefits Of A College Degree [SERIES]

This is part four of a weeklong series on higher education costs in New Jersey. See the entire series here.

The ever-rising costs of tuition have discouraged many New Jersey students from the traditional, four-year route of higher education. However, professionals in the field say families must look beyond the price tag and consider the lifelong benefits a bachelor’s degree can offer.

College Graduation
Flickr User Rennett Stowe

The U.S. Department of Labor numbers presented earlier this week show a solid argument for bachelor’s degree-holders in the long run, when considering average salary and the chances of keeping a job.

“The most immediate benefit is economic,” said Michael Klein, Executive Director of the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities. “But this is really about lifelong learning. You’re going to get the skills to communicate, to reason, to argue, to express yourself in writing, in meetings.”

Citing past studies, Klein said college graduates are much more civically engaged.

“They vote more often; they’re more charitable; they’re stronger contributors to overall society,” he said.

He also noted a “ripple effect,” saying that children of college graduates are more likely to follow that path.

Paul Shelly, the Association’s Director of Communications and Marketing, added that a Liberal Arts degree allows people to adapt to change. An associate degree or technical certificate can get someone an immediate job, he said, but the average person makes a number of career changes in a lifetime.

“If you train for something, one specific career, then you can be stuck in that area,” explained Shelly.

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Preparing students for the real world is also a primary task for private institutions in New Jersey. At Monmouth University in West Long Branch, the career assistance doesn’t stop once a student receives his/her diploma.

William Hill with Career Services at Monmouth University
William Hill with Career Services at Monmouth University says there are currently about 1,000 students working on campus. (Townsquare Media)

William Hill, Monmouth’s Assistant Dean of Career Services, said about 20 percent of the people his department helps are MU alumni.

“We have individual appointments for career counseling and career advising. We do several hundred individual appointments a year,” Hill said.

Monmouth also has an always-active schedule of seminars for students and alumni, covering topics from writing a resume to preparing for an interview. Employers are brought on campus at times for job fairs and networking opportunities. Perhaps the most important career service Monmouth provides, according to Hill, is the weekly job newsletter that’s sent out through e-mail. Last year, close to 2,000 full-time and part-time jobs were sent to newsletter recipients.

When asked about the benefits of attending a four-year institution, Hill said a bachelor’s degree is the one thing someone can invest in that can never be taken away.

Hill admitted, “I don’t think colleges prepare you so much for your first job after graduation as they do for your last job.”

Tomorrow, in the final part of our higher education series, Townsquare Media goes on the road and asks everyday New Jerseyans the question of the week – is college worth it?

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