POSTED: Monday, May 13, 2013 - 8:31pm
UPDATED: Monday, May 27, 2013 - 11:27am
El Paso, TEXAS (KTSM) — Is a college degree as valuable as it used to be?
A recent study based on numbers from the U.S.. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that many of the jobs that require an associate's degree pay more than those requiring a bachelor's or masters.
Twenty- nine year-old Ruby Rivera says she worked hard for seven years to get her bachelor’s degree in psychology.
"Expectation was what everybody tells you. You go to college, get a good education and you come out and get a good job, a good paying job. Good enough to support your family and it didn't turn out that way,” said Rivera. “I went into it because that's what i was interested in. and i was very determined to make it work."
And determined she was. She had to work two retail jobs and raise her two children, while going to school.
"It was crazy," said Rivera.
Rivera's plan was to be a social worker, but after a year of job searching, the search had come up empty.
"What I was looking forward to actually was the stability of not having to work more than one job at a time," said Rivera.
The U.S.. Bureau of Labor statistics says about five million college graduates are underemployed and although things are getting better, the unemployment rates for college graduates are higher than they were before the recession.
Still, officials at UTEP tell NewsChannel Nine that continuing education after high school is still the best option.
Gary Eden, with UTEP student affairs, says those studies are worrisome.
"They almost give you the sense that it's not worth it to get a college degree anymore. That worries me especially in a population like El Paso where so many individuals don't have that secondary education, that higher education. We need to do everything we can as a community to promote education because that is the single best shot at improving the lifestyle of your family and improving the lifestyle in this community," said Edens.
He says the world has changed and so has the job market.
"Positions that were much more localized, in the 70's are now nationwide and worldwide. That's actually what my argument would be that's why it's even more important for every student to think about not only getting their high school diploma but going on and getting a college degree,” said Edens.
Post secondary options have also changed.
"Some students don't want to last four years doing the same thing what they can do here. You know at UTEP, they could go for business management and here you'll finish it in a year and half or two years," said Hector Gonzalez with Southwest University, a for profit school in El Paso.
"It's more convenient. It saves time. You get the same quality of education, if not maybe even better, by coming here," said Gonzalez.
For profit schools are booming and interested students aren't the only ones noticing.
"it's an area of competition that we haven't fully come to grips with but we're gonna have to moving forward," said Gary Carruthers , NMSU President-elect.
Gonzalez said students who want training in a specific trade, should consider two year programs.
"Our degrees or careers are tailored to that particular field that our students studied here at Southwest. That way when they go out to the real world, they know what jobs they want and they know how to get it," said Gonzalez.
Carruthers said the for profit schools might be a fast track but part of his plan is to make sure students know that universities are still the better route.
Back at UTEP, Edens says they aims to counsel, advise and monitor the market trends. They make sure to start with one question when helping a student:
"What are you passionate about? What do you enjoy doing?"
That's what Rivera says was at the core of her plan, but advises caution.
"Make sure before you get into it, that there's gonna be jobs, where you're at or where you wanna be. Before you go and spend all this time and dedicate yourself financially whatever the case may be. That way you know once you're done with school you don't have to wait so long to try and find a job," said Rivera.
Edens says UTEP is making a difference and those statistics and studies are not accurate. For example, the new developments in the healthcare and nursing departments at UTEP reflect the growing job opportunities in the workforce.
Workforce Solutions Upper Rio Grande data shows jobs that will be available in the future that will require at least a two year degree. In addition, the statistics show a bachelor's degree can mean a higher salary.