When Sarah Craven lost her job as a paraprofessional last year, she knew what she needed to do — go back to school.
"I graduated from high school more than five years ago, but after graduation I always found a job so I never thought about going back to school," said Craven, an Oakwood resident. "After I was let go — and considering the way the economy is — I figured it was time for me to start working on my college degree."
Craven isn’t alone in her pursuit of higher education, according to the results of the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Statistics released earlier this week show the number of Hall County residents with at least some college experience jumped from 14.9 percent in 2007 to 19.7 percent in 2008.
According to the survey, the number of Hall County residents with an associate degree also increased from 5.6 percent in 2007 to 6.3 percent in 2008. The number of residents with a graduate or professional degree increased slightly from 6 percent to 6.4 percent.
Area colleges and universities all have noticed a swell in enrollment. Over the summer, Lanier Technical College reported a 32 percent increase in enrollment over last summer’s figures. And with a fall enrollment of nearly 9,000, Gainesville State College’s enrollment has increased by about 10 percent over last year. North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega, Brenau University in Gainesville and other area colleges in North Georgia also have reported higher student enrollment figures.
Continuing education is more than just a fill-in between jobs, it also can mean higher wages for job-seekers. According to the University System of Georgia, recent system graduates can expect to make about $14,000 a year more than someone who doesn’t have a college degree.
"It just makes sense that the more education you have, the more you would make," said Jason Brats, a Gainesville resident who was recently home for a visit from Valdosta State University. "I mean, I’d like to think that I’d be better off financially after four years of college than someone who didn’t continue their education beyond high school."