Valley Works: Choosing College Majors Early

FRESNO, Calif.

The problem is the majority of community college students don't graduate or transfer to a four year institution. College graduates start out eager, ready for the next chapter in their lives. Some incoming freshmen at Fresno City College have it all planned out.

"I plan on becoming an orthopedic surgeon, I am taking a pre-med program here," said Mark Fisher an incoming Fresno City College freshmen.

Other Student like Kevin Thomas is still figuring it out.

"I want a job where I don't have to sit behind a desk and I make a lot of money," said Kevin Thomas, an incoming Fresno City College freshman.

Officials at Fresno City College want students to be focused when it comes to planning their career path, in fact those entering the community college now must declare a major and there is a good reason why.

"Studies have shown when a student chooses a major early on they are more likely to persists and graduate from college," said Karin Collins, Fresno City College job developer.

Getting more students to graduate or continue their studies is a huge concern. Nationally only about a quarter of community college students complete their studies within three years. At Fresno City College only about 25 percent of students graduate or transfer to a 4 year college those numbers end up having a hug impact on our local economy.

Fresno's lack of an educated and skilled workforce is the reason given for the regions inability to attract companies that offer good paying wages.

"There is a significant difference between what a high school graduate makes as far as yearly salary compared to someone who has post-secondary education such as AA degree or Bachelor Degree," said Lily Hernandez, career counselor at Fresno City College.

At Fresno City College the emphasis is on getting students to choose a career and major early. Officials are hoping workshops like Steps to Success for new students will help.

"This is very informative, they are really good at trying to get your involved with them," Thomas said.

Getting more students to graduate or transfer could pay off big. One study showed that if community colleges in California could reduce by half the number of students who drop out. Those students could earn an additional $100 million dollars in income.

"Everybody likes money, I know I like money," Thomas said.

That is money that could be pumped back into the local economy.

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