SB 12-45 Higher Ed Associate Degree Transfer Students (House Education)
Senate Bill 12-045
Testimony to the House Education Committee
Frank Waterous, Senior Policy Analyst
March 19, 2012
My name is Frank Waterous, and I am a senior policy analyst with the Bell Policy Center. The Bell is a non-partisan, non-profit research and policy organization founded on progressive values and dedicated to expanding opportunity for all Coloradans.
The Bell Policy Center strongly supports Senate Bill 12-045, "Higher Ed Associate Degree Transfer Students." Providing the opportunity for more students who start at two-year institutions to be awarded associate's degrees based on additional credits completed after they have transferred to four-year institutions will benefit both the students, by increasing their earnings potential and employment opportunities, and the state, by helping to address our workforce-development needs and goals.
SB 045 is good for students. Whether a student is continuing to make progress toward a bachelor's degree or has decided for whatever reason to leave school before receiving a four-year credential, having an associate's degree in hand increases the student's earning potential and employment opportunities. Simply put, research reveals that in today's world, credentials matter.
The results of a longitudinal analysis of Florida graduates at all levels of post-secondary education conducted in 2009 by the Hudson Institute Center for Employment Policy confirmed the findings from previous studies that "students who complete a community college credential tend to have higher earnings than four-year college students who do not graduate." Further, the evidence from these studies "underscores the importance of degree completion as much as the type of degree selected."
A 2011 U.S. Census Bureau report noted that annual median earnings for those with associate's degrees are $3,000 to $5,000 higher than for those with some college but no degree. The report further observed that "in addition to higher earnings, people with higher levels of education are more likely to be employed full-time, year-round." In fact, the 2010 unemployment rate for those with associate's degrees was 7 percent, compared to 9.2 percent for those with some college but no degree.
SB 045 benefits the state by helping us to address our workforce-development needs and goals. A vital and growing component of our state's labor market is made up of "middle-skill" jobs - that is, well-paying jobs that require post-secondary education and credentials beyond a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree.
As noted in a recent National Skills Coalition report, "Colorado has been experiencing a structural shortage of middle-skill workers. Accounting for 47 percent of Colorado's jobs, only 36 percent of Colorado workers are trained to the middle-skill level, a gap that threatens to undermine economic growth and innovation." Increasing the number of people in the workforce with associate's degrees would increase the quality of the state's workforce and directly contribute to filling this middle-skill gap.
And in the end, of course, strengthening the quality of Colorado's workforce by helping more students succeed has broader implications for all of us. As the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation has observed, "Educational attainment is the single-most important element in job and income growth," and is one of the chief underpinnings of a strong economy.
In closing, The Bell Policy Center believes that Senate Bill 12-045 is a needed step forward in ensuring that more students succeed in attaining post-secondary credentials, and that Colorado achieves its post-secondary completion and workforce development goals. We urge you to support the bill, we thank Representatives Massey and Fields for bringing it to you today, and we thank you for the opportunity to share this information. If you have any questions, or if I can provide further information, please call me at 303-297-0456 or email me at email@example.com.
 Louis Jacobson and Christine Mokher, Pathways to Boosting the Earnings of Low-Income Students by Increasing their Educational Attainment, Hudson Institute Center for Employment Policy, January 2009,
 Jennifer Wheary and Viany Orozco, "Graduated Success: Sustainable Economic Opportunity Through One- and Two-Year Credentials," Demos Postsecondary Success series, 2010, http://www.demos.org/sites/default/files/publications/Graduated_Success_Demos.pdf
 Tiffany Julian and Robert Kominski, "Education and Synthetic Work-Life Earnings Estimates," American Community Survey Reports, U.S. Census Bureau, September 2011, http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/acs-14.pdf
 "Education and Training Pay," 2010 unemployment rate and 2009 mean earnings by educational attainment level, published by Postsecondary Education Opportunity based on U.S. Census Bureau data, http://www.postsecondary.org/archives/Posters/EducationTraining.pdf
 Colorado's Forgotten Middle-Skill Jobs: Meeting the Demands of a 21st-Century Economy, National Skills Coalition, written for the Skills2Compete-Colorado campaign, Oct 2011,
 "Toward a More Competitive Colorado: Executive Summary on Competitiveness," Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation, Nov 2009,