An impressive 216 county vocational-technical school seniors earned an associate degree before even graduating from high school, taking advantage of unique opportunities presented in their high school programs to accumulate portable college credits. The hard work and commitment that resulted in so many New Jersey high school students graduating with the equivalent of two years of college under their belts is worth celebrating. Making it even more notable is the cost savings. If there is a time to appreciate a penny saved, it’s now.
According to Jackie Burke, executive director for the New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools, students often earn these credits at little or no cost to them and their families. “That adds up to significant savings,” she emphasized.
This year’s record-setting number of county vocational-technical students to earn both high school and associate degrees is expected to increase again next year. County vocational-technical schools continue to add and expand career and technical education (CTE) programs and opportunities to attain college credit in response to student demand.
Much of that expansion is happening quickly, supported by state grants made possible by the 2018 voter-approved Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act. Preference was given to applicants that had partnerships with local county colleges.
Such partnerships have led to many CTE programs including dual-credit options, with college-level courses offered as part of the high school experience.
“Our colleges are committed to enhancing these dual enrollment programs, which provide affordable pathways to post-secondary education while speeding up students’ preparation for the workforce,” said Aaron R. Fichtner, president of the New Jersey Council of County Colleges.
Burke further highlighted the many benefits of these dual credit programs. “The saying ‘time is money’ definitely rings true when it comes to college, so giving students a head start saves them both time and money when they move on to this next step,” she said. “And, if students decide not to pursue their intended area of study, they will come to this realization before incurring college debt.”
According to April Gonzalez, a recent graduate from Cumberland County Technical Education Center, another benefit to high school students who take college-level courses is extra confidence. “College has a lot of challenges, but I know that I can handle it,” she said, as she now embarks on a dual BA/MA in Criminal Justice program at Stockton University.
All 21 county vocational-technical schools in New Jersey enable students to earn credit for college-level work while still in high school. Some programs build upon the credits offered with additional coursework completed on students’ own time; others are specifically designed to support students in earning their associate degrees.
Of the 216 students graduating from a county vocational-technical high school this month with associate degrees, one quarter, 54 students, are from Cumberland County Technical Education Center. Ocean County Vocational Technical School has the next highest number with 44 students, followed by Bergen County Technical School District with 29 students, Somerset County Vocational and Technical Schools with 25, Essex County Schools of Technology with 23, Hudson County Schools of Technology with 14, Gloucester County Institute of Technology with 10, Salem County Vocational Technical School District with nine, Atlantic County Institute of Technology with five, Morris County Vocational School District with two, and Mercer County Technical Schools with one.
This news was also covered by NJ 101.5 on June 27, 2022.