Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Del Mar College: Strives to Be the Antidote for Degree Disenchantment

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Del Mar College: Strives to Be the Antidote for Degree Disenchantment

Article excerpt

Editor's Note: This issue of Hispanic Outlook focuses on graduate schools, but there are other options for those who hold bachelor degrees and want to retool their skills. Del Mar College's offerings is consistent with a new national trend of degree holders returning to college to qualify for a lucrative profession and not necessarily an advanced degree.

A bachelor's degree in criminal justice paved the way for Leticia Cervantes to become a licensed private investigator. But after a few years in the business, usually checking on unfaithful spouses for local attorneys, she craved a more reliable income and regular work hours. Her solution: go back to school and learn cosmetology.

"I made the move because the economy is so unpredictable," said Cervantes, 37, who in December received a certificate in cosmetology from Del Mar College. "My sister has always taught me that in times of economic crisis, people won't hire a private investigator, but women will always get their hair and makeup done."

Cervantes plans to take the state cosmetology exam this month, she said. Her older sister with whom she partnered in private investigations bought a beauty salon in 2014. The two will run the business together and take occasional sleuthing jobs on the side.

Cervantes' story isn't unusual at Del Mar. The college enrolls several hundred students each year who already have a bachelor's degree, consistent with a national trend.

One out of every 14 people who attend community colleges has already earned a bachelor's degree, according to the American Association of Community Colleges. An October 2015 article by U.S. News & World Report attributes the phenomenon in part to a failure by some four-year universities to prepare their graduates for jobs that are in demand locally.

Community colleges like Del Mar, which maintains a laser focus on local industry needs, welcome degree holders seeking more marketable job skills.

The Money Factor

There are many incentives for degree holders to retool. In the Texas Coastal Bend, career fields with promising job growth such as the healthcare and oil and gas industries often come with comfortable salaries.

"My goal is to make some darn money!" said Matthew Cavazos, 28, who enrolled in Del Mar's Environmental/Petrochemical Lab Technology program last summer.

In 2010, as a wide-eyed young actor with a bachelor's degree in theater arts, Cavazos wasn't motivated by income potential, he said. His attitude changed last summer. Broke and soul-searching, he decided to channel his aptitude for chemistry into a career as a lab technician at a local refinery or petrochemical plant.

"I went from no future to an incredibly bright future," Cavazos said. "With a few thousand dollars in tuition at Del Mar, I can go out and make about $50,000 a year starting out. After five years, you're looking at making six figures. You can't beat the economic leverage. It's a no-brainer."

No Regrets

Cavazos said while he doesn't regret his earlier choices, he's convinced that a two-year program at a community college will command the income and job opportunities that his four-year degree doesn't.

He's right, considering the existing industries and influx of new ones in the Coastal Bend, said Gwynell Westervelt, associate professor of Chemical Laboratory and Electroplating Technology at Del Mar. Thirty-eight billion dollars in direct investment is fueling growth in the region, including the construction of new iron manufacturing and liquefied natural gas plants. …

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