EDUCATION

North Jerseyans More Likely to Have College Degrees

By Erin Delmore
Correspondent

Around 50 percent of New Jerseyans have post-high school degrees. That’s seven points higher than the national average. But there’s a big split between educational attainment in North Jersey and South Jersey.

“I think that the opportunities in the south sometimes are not as prevalent as they are in the north,” said Atlantic Cape Community College and The College of New Jersey graduate Erinn Hendricks.

About 60 percent of North Jersey residents have at least a two-year post-high school degree. In South Jersey, it’s half that, according to a recent report by the Lumina Foundation.

“If you look at say Salem County, you’re looking at a 32 percent attainment rate. If you look at let’s say Passaic County, a 34 percent attainment rate. And Cumberland County is only a 21 percent attainment rate or just over one in five adults in Cumberland County have a two-year or four-year college degree,” said Lumina Foundation Vice President of Strategy Development Dr. Dewayne Matthews.

“Depending on where you are, there are more job opportunities in the south, like your Atlantic County region, in Cape May County, there are a lot more opportunities. I live in Cumberland County. There’s not as much, so for me, I have to travel whether I go south or whether I go north. There’s no way around it. I have to travel,” Hendricks said.

Hendricks has a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from The College of New Jersey and an associate’s degree in culinary arts from Atlantic Cape Community College.

“Well right now I’m working at the Seabrook House in Bridgeton, N.J. It’s a drug and alcohol program and I’m in their kitchen, which is a from-scratch kitchen, so I have a lot of opportunity to create exciting recipes for the clients that we serve. But long term, I would eventually like to do my own thing and have a business myself, possibly catering, and maybe a small bake shop,” she said.

Dean Kelly McClay says a lot of her students are transitioning careers.

“They’ll come to us, maybe because they lost their job, they were working on the casino floor, or maybe they were doing something at a front desk environment or what have you, but they really always wanted to cook. And so we’ll get a lot of transition people as well,” McClay said.

The Academy of Culinary Arts at Atlantic Cape Community College offers a 30-credit certificate and a two-year associate degree. From there, students can transfer to more than a dozen universities to earn their bachelor’s degree.

“I think society’s approach to employment and careers has changed somewhat. I think after 2008 when the economy really tanked and people were scared, and I think that the whole philosophy of everybody has to go to college, everybody needs a bachelor’s degree, if you don’t, you don’t stand a chance of making it in this world, I think people thought well maybe I should just get started. And maybe if I just get started I can get a job. And they found that in some cases that’s very true,” McClay said.

Dean McClay says a large number of her students take classes bit by bit. They gain enough skills and credits to get a foot in the door in their chosen industry, then they move up and come back to earn another degree.