Dozens of students pledged to earn a Brookdale degree and see their educational goals through on Oct. 19 during this year’s New Jersey Community College Completion Challenge (NJC4), hosted by the Brookdale chapter of Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society (PTK).
The initiative, sponsored at all of New Jersey’s 19 community colleges by the New Jersey Education Association and the New Jersey Council of County Colleges’ Center for Student Success, is designed to encourage students to earn an associate degree before transferring or entering the workforce.
At Brookdale, PTK members hosted an NJC4 Carnival on the Student Life Center patio, offering free food, activities and a wealth of information to students about the benefits of earning an associate degree.
Those benefits, according to PTK, include a significant increase in earning potential, with associate degree holders making an average of $500,000 more in their lifetimes. Unemployment rates are also about 30 percent lower for community college graduates, and degree holders are more likely to transfer and graduate from a four-year school.
While students planning to transfer and earn a bachelor’s degree may shrug off those benefits, they may one day be glad they committed to earning an associate degree, said chemistry professor and PTK co-advisor Shahin Pirzad.
“Many students transfer without getting a degree,” he said, “and a lot of times, at a four-year school, students will realize they don’t like where they are or what they are studying, or they encounter an unforeseen financial or personal problem and they have to leave. After all that time, they are left with nothing. That’s why it’s so important to earn an associate degree before transferring. No matter what happens, you will always have that to fall back on.”
Throughout the afternoon, students were encouraged to add their name to a large NJC4 banner and sign a pledge declaring that they would complete their degree program and earn a diploma. Faculty and staff were also encouraged to sign the banner and pledge their support to students working toward a degree.
PTK members also set up a large blackboard allowing students to publicly post their own reasons for finishing what they started.
“Every community college student has their own unique story. That’s really what sets us apart,” said Brookdale PTK president Karyssa D’Agostino. “So we wanted to showcase that by giving students an opportunity to say why they are here and why they want to earn a degree… It’s really a self-driven initiative. You’re saying to yourself, ‘I am going to complete my education and get my degree, no matter what.'”
Learn more about Brookdale’s PTK chapter here.
Check out more photos of the NJC4 Carnival here.