Seven Valuable Associate Degrees

With annual tuition for many two-year programs costing as little as $5,000, an associate degree is just about the best bang for the education buck you can find. According to the Census Bureau, associate degree holders earn an average of $400,000 more over a lifetime than high-school graduates.

These seven areas in particular have the hottest job prospects:

1. Accounting
With an associate degree in accounting under your belt, you’ll be prepared for a number of entry-level accounting jobs.

One such occupation is an accounts receivable/payable clerk. According to, earnings start at between $21,000 and $27,000 — though you could rack up overtime pay, too – and reach nearly $50,000 with experience. A bachelor’s degree can bring a significant salary bump, and company size, industry and geographic location will also affect your income. With additional education, experience and certification, you could become a controller or certified public accountant, with a salary that could top $100,000.

2. Nursing
An associate degree in nursing can land you a staff position in a hospital or other inpatient facility. Job growth in the field should remain strong through the decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Starting salaries for registered nurses are around $30,000, and hospitals generally pay more. In addition to base pay, RNs are often paid extra for night and weekend shifts. According to the BLS, the 2010 median annual pay for full-time RNs was just under $65,000. (Find out what the other five include).

Via Larry Buhl, special to CareerBuilder.

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Credit When It’s Due: Recognizing the Value of Quality Associate Degrees

Kresge, Lumina Foundations Announce Grant Opportunity to Help Ensure Community College Transfer Students Receive Credit for Coursework

The Kresge Foundation and the Lumina Foundation have announced a new national grant program designed to help college students get credit and credentials for their coursework when they transfer to four-year institutions.

“Credit When It’s Due: Recognizing the Value of Quality Associate Degrees” aims to address a problem that affects community-college students who transfer to four-year institutions before receiving an associate degree with the intention of earning a four-year baccalaureate degree. For some, especially part-time students, earning that degree will take longer than traditional two- or four-year completion periods. While there are generally mechanisms in place for a four-year school to accept credits from a community college, there is no system for the community college to log the credits earned after a transfer. If such credits were logged, students would be awarded their associate degree by the community college. For students who go on to complete a baccalaureate degree, that would be an interim step helpful in the job market. For students who ultimately do not earn a four-year degree, it would provide some credential for their effort and investment.

The Kresge-Lumina program is designed to encourage state education systems to implement consistent approaches to awarding associate degrees to these kinds of transfer students, an approach commonly known as “reverse back” or “reverse transfer” degrees.

The grant opportunity is open to state higher-education executive offices; state systems of higher education representing two- and four-year institutions, four-year institutions, or community colleges; and partnerships of two- and/or four-year institutions with a designated lead public postsecondary institution or nonprofit organization as grant manager.

The partnership expects to collectively award eight to ten two-year grants ranging in amount between $200,000 and $600,000,based on the number of feeder community college/university partnerships needed to scale the project at the state level. Only one award will be made in any state. Each state-level project will be required to contribute cost-sharing.

Applications will be accepted by the Lumina Foundation. Visit the Lumina Web site for complete program guidelines and application materials.

Link to Complete RFP

Deadline: June 27, 2012.

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Common Sense on Completion

One way to boost graduation rates is to issue degrees to students who’ve already earned them, which often doesn’t happen with associate degrees.

Roughly half of students who earn a bachelor’s degree after transferring to a four-year institution from a community college fail to receive an associate degree, said Janet Marling, director of the National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students at the University of North Texas, citing data from the College Board. And 80 percent fail to in California.

This isn’t necessarily a problem for students who get a diploma from a four-year college. But transfer students are often left holding no credential if they drop out, even after earning more than 60 credits, sometimes many more.

In addition, many students transfer away from community colleges before earning an associate degree, and count as failures toward institutional graduation rates. Indeed, a student who leaves after two semesters to drop out looks the same as one who transferred to a top university.

The growing acceptance of “reverse transfer” may change this pattern, thanks in part to the national completion push. The term applies to several approaches, including the granting of associate degrees by four-year institutions, sometimes retroactively, for previously earned credits, or as part of “pathways” where transfer students finish their associate degree at a four-year college. Also, a growing number of students go back to earn an associate degree, often in nursing, after getting their bachelor’s degree in another field.

Reverse transfer is a student-centric approach, Marling said, which seeks to help students understand the importance of the often-overlooked associate degree milestone.

Policymakers have taken notice, as have Complete College America and the Lumina Foundation, which recently announced a grant program to encourage reverse transfer at a larger scale. In the past, most successful reverse transfer agreements were between individual institutions. The University of Texas at El Paso and El Paso Community College, for example, are considered trailblazers. But broader cooperation is cropping up in some states.

Hawaii may be the furthest ahead in statewide coordination, said Holly Zanville, a program director at Lumina, and Maryland is also moving that way. The basic idea behind reverse transfer is to give “credit when it’s due,” Zanville said, which is the name Lumina gave to its new grant program.

Tennessee’s private colleges recently developed a pathways approach for its community colleges, through which students can transfer before receiving associate degrees and still earn them at private colleges, under jointly-designed curriculum plans. And New Hampshire’s community college and public university systems are now working together to make sure transfer students in STEM fields get their associate degrees.

Colleges in some states have beaten lawmakers to the punch on reverse transfer, while others are responding to legislative pressure.

“When your state legislature starts to mandate it, you take notice,” Marling said.  (Read more.)

Via Paul Fain, Inside Higher Ed.

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