Majority of '09 Washington Co. grads planned more education

July 31, 2010|By HEATHER LOWERY
  • Hagerstown Community College students, from left, Matt Vich, Brett Rowland and Julie Holsinger, chat outside the school's student center.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- More than half of Washington County Public Schools' 2009 graduates said they planned to further their education through traditional channels, a move that higher education officials say will pay off in the long run.

According to the 2009 Maryland Report Card on the state Department of Education's website at, 31.4 percent of the county's 2009 graduates said they planned to attend a four-year college, 19.4 planned to attend a two-year college and 1.7 planned to attend a specialized training school.

Others said they planned to attend school while working either full time or part time

"In the current job market, anything you can do to improve your skills or expand your skills and offer employers something that others don't have is helpful," said Erin Harman, director of advancement and outreach for the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown.

Kevin Crawford, recruitment coordinator for Hagerstown Community College, agreed.


"I've always said, 'You don't pay the price for going to college. You pay the price for not going to college,'" he said.

"I go to high school students and try to convince them to come to college," he said. "It is tough to get a job, but if you want to stand out, having that degree helps."

Getting an edge

In today's economy, finding a job can be difficult. Crawford said he believes having higher education will give students an edge over other job candidates.

"When the job market looks up, I foresee employers hiring those who are educated," Crawford said.

"Employers tell us that there are very few jobs that a person can come into without any kind of post-secondary training," said W. Christopher Motz, president of Kaplan University's Hagerstown campus.

Mark Vernarelli, director of public information for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said taking college courses can be helpful to obtaining a job in the prison system.

However, applicants seeking correctional officer jobs must meet certain criteria regardless of the amount of education they might have.

"Experience and a criminal justice background would be wonderful, but all applicants must pass the test first," Vernarelli said. "Whether you have a degree or not, you must pass the background interview and investigation."

Vernarelli said a correctional officer I may be promoted to correctional officer II sooner if he or she has taken some classes.

"A CO I with some college credits, if progressing satisfactorily and if approved by supervising authorities, may be promoted to CO II in six months, rather than the typical one-year probationary period," Vernarelli said.

'Education is the key'

Brad Kretzer of Hagerstown, an incoming junior at the University of Maryland School of Nursing, said he is furthering his education so he can be competitive when looking for a job.

"With the economy being down, it is important to have a degree so you can be more competitive," he said.

Kretzer said he believes hospital industry employers are looking not only for education, but for experience.

"I was talking to certain people in my field and they told me that a lot of people have bachelor's degrees, but you need experience," Kretzer said. "A lot of people are looking for that."

Brian Lautenslager, an outside sales representative for Federated Auto Parts in Hagerstown, said he believes education is important no matter what field a person decides to enter.

"Education is the key," he said. "It will not hurt you in any way. Furthering your education in management would help you in any field."

Harman said she believes these days, jobs that once went to those with high school educations now are going to students who have furthered their education.

"I think that there are people with college degrees applying for jobs that high school graduates typically held, and if the employer has the option of hiring someone with higher education, they will probably give the job to the person with more education," Harman said.

'Education is a groove'

Education is essential to obtaining a good job, Motz said.

"I think we live in a day and age where it's almost become essential for a person to have some type of post-secondary education to compete for almost any job in any job market, even entry-level jobs," Motz said.

Motz said he encourages students who do not want to further their education to consider the option of a two-year degree or a certificate program.

Otherwise, he said, "It really is going to be very difficult for them to find a career. They may find a job, but that job is going to be low-level, probably minimum wage."

Crawford expressed concern for students who decide against continuing their education.

"The worst advice ever given to a high school student is to take a year off," Crawford said. "When students do that, they never go back."

"Education is a groove," he said. "My advice is to continue your education, maybe part time, and keep the part-time job. That way, you get the best of both worlds."

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