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SPOTLIGHT
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Education milestones

Published on -5/11/2012, 10:14 AM

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Graduation time is upon us. For those finishing college, whether it was a four-year commitment or longer, the future is here.

While it is true the lifetime earnings potential significantly increase for those with a degree, the timing of one's commencement walk has an effect. And 2012 is, quite simply, not one of the best times to be graduating. With the national economy still on the mend, there could be more college graduates looking for work than actually starting a career.

A study released this week from Rutgers University paints a somewhat bleak picture. The numbers reveal:

* Only 51 percent of those who graduated college since 2006 have a full-time job;

* Fewer than half of those who graduated since 2009 found their first job within 12 months;

* 55 percent of the graduates have student loan debt averaging $20,000; and

* Starting salaries average $27,000, down from $30,000 just five years ago.

"The resilience of this year's and recent college graduates are being tested," said Carl Van Horn, a professor who directs Rutgers' Heldrich Center and a co-author of the study. "Students who graduated during the past several years are facing historic obstacles in achieving the foundations of the American dream."

While that is true on a nationwide basis, there is a remarkably different story in northwest Kansas.

This weekend, more than 3,000 students at Fort Hays State University will receive their degrees. This record number includes associate, bachelor and graduate students, and is so high there will be too separate ceremonies.

For students completing their undergraduate programs, The vast majority will find jobs if historical records hold true.

No less than 67 percent will have jobs in their field of study, 8 percent will have jobs outside their major, and 17 percent will continue educational pursuits. A mere 6 percent will not have jobs, which leads FHSU to tout a 94 percent "success" rate. That's not half bad. And that's even a tad down from the 98 percent of four years ago. Simply remarkable.

Additionally, because of the "affordable success" tuition-pricing philosophy, average student loan debt will be significantly lower for Tiger grads than their national peers. That will make the probable lower starting salaries easier to manage.

We wish nothing but blue skies for those graduating from Fort Hays State University this weekend. Similar wishes go to the more than 140 graduates of the North Central Kansas Technical College Hays campus who likewise have ceremonies this weekend.

And since we're on the subject of significant milestones, we congratulate the seniors of both Hays High School and TMP-Marian High for completing their studies. The eighth-grade classes at Kennedy and Felten middle schools likewise are noted as the final graduates of those facilities. Starting next year, the two schools combine as Hays Middle School.

Let the pomp and circumstance begin.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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