In our ongoing efforts to increase the number of Arkansans completing college degrees, a new program shows promise for rapid results. This new initiative, called Degree Matters, targets approximately 6,000 people who have already completed three-fourths of the coursework required for an Associate's Degree. The initiative has such great potential to make a difference that all of Arkansas's two- and four-year colleges and universities are on board to help it succeed.
Already, we are working to track down the eligible individuals who are close to completing their degrees. If you think you're among them, or know someone who is, you can search for names on the Degree Matters Web site and find further instructions. To qualify, a student must have attended an Arkansas public college or university, which grants Associate's Degrees, between the fall of 1994 and 2013 and must have completed at least 15 general-education transfer courses.
The Degree Matters site will ask your consent to collect all of your college transcripts and complete a thorough review of your coursework. It may be that you have already completed the required coursework for an Associate's Degree. In that case, the degree will be awarded. Those who have not completed the required hours will be given information about the steps needed to take those final steps toward earning a degree.
There are many benefits to having an Associate's Degree, including increased salary and career opportunities. Arkansans with Associate's Degrees earn more than double the average salary for individuals with a high-school diploma. That can make a difference of about $400,000 more over the course of a lifetime for those college graduates.
Securing an Associate's Degree provides an advantage for those interested in continuing their higher education and pursuing a Bachelor's Degree. Students who transfer to a university with a two-year degree are 49 percent more likely to complete a Bachelor's program in four years, compared to those without one. This is because they have completed freshman- and sophomore-level, general-education courses and can focus on specific fields of study.
In the 21st-century economy, education is vital to ensuring financial security. There is high demand for educated workers, and this demand means employers are willing to pay higher salaries to those who have earned the needed degrees. The fastest way out of poverty is through education, and for Arkansas to improve its overall standard of living, we must educate more of our people at the postsecondary level.
As our college graduation rates improve, more businesses with high-paying jobs for educated workers will be drawn to locate operations in Arkansas. This benefits our entire economy. It broadens our tax base and generates more revenue for state services. Individuals and families with greater discretionary income will further support our local businesses. This is why we continue to work toward my goal of doubling the number of college-degree holders in Arkansas by 2025. Assisting 6,000 of our people through the Degree Matters program is another step that will bring us nearer to that goal.