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Colorado colleges graduate bumper crop

The Community College of Aurora is looking at an eye-popping 70 percent increase in the number of students it graduates this spring if students who say they’ve met requirements are right.

The Metropolitan State College of Denver expects to confer degrees on a record 1,615 graduates this spring, up 27 percent from last year.

And they’re not the only Colorado campuses pumping out bumper crops of capped and robed graduates eager to land jobs or continue their degree-seeking quests.

According to unofficial numbers, the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley will also hand out degrees to a record graduating class of 1,474. The Colorado School of Mines is setting a record with 546 undergraduates and 159 graduate students earning degrees.

While the number of spring graduates has held steady in recent years at the University of Colorado at Boulder, it too is expecting the spring graduating class to be among its largest, CU-Boulder spokesman Greg Swenson said.

Some 5,825 graduates earned degrees this spring from CU-Boulder. Of those, 4,530 were undergraduate degrees, 850 were master’s degrees, 175 were in law, and 270 were doctoral degrees.

“It’s definitely one of the larger classes,” Swenson said.

Celebrating diversity at Metro

To celebrate this year’s large number of 1,615 prospective grads, Metro will hold its first outdoor commencement Sunday morning on the Auraria Athletic Field. President Stephen Jordan will deliver the commencement address reflecting upon the institution’s nearly 45-year history and where the urban campus is headed.

Of the state’s four-year schools, Metro’s graduating class is most diverse, campus spokesman Tim Carroll said. Nearly 20 percent of graduating students are of color, with Latinos representing 10.7 percent of the total. Ten graduates are 20 years old or younger, and seven are 60 or older. Two thirds of the graduates transferred to Metro State from other institutions.

Metro’s top 10 majors are biology, behavioral science, psychology, criminal justice and criminology, history, accounting, speech communication, management, art, and human performance and sport, in that order. Thirteen percent of the graduates, or 207 students, are seeking teacher licensure.

A major reason for Metro’s surge was transfer students. There were 213 more of them in this year’s graduating class, for a total of 1,087. For the three years prior, the transfer figure hovered near 850. Also, Jordan has focused on improving retention and graduation rates since he came on board nearly five years ago, Metro spokesman Tim Carroll said.

UNC grads aged 19 to 57

At UNC, 1,237 of the graduates are earning bachelor’s degrees, 182 are earning master’s degrees, 17 are receiving specialist certificates 38 are earning doctoral degrees. For undergrads, the age range is 19 to 57. For graduate students, it’s 22 to 60 years old. The average age of an undergraduate is 24; while the average age of a graduate student is 33. The average undergraduate GPA is 3.19, while the average graduate GPA is 3.82. It takes most undergraduates nine semesters to graduate.

UNC’s top five majors for undergrads based upon 2010 degrees awarded are: interdisciplinary studies, business administration, psychology, communication studies, sport and exercise science and journalism, spokesman Nate Haas said.

Top majors in UNC’s graduate school were special education, clinical counseling, music, school psychology and sport and exercise science.

Adams State College in Alamosa is reporting a record batch of graduates earning master’s degrees, or 145. The majority of the degrees, or 93, are in counselor education. Of those, more than half completed the degree program online.

Red Rocks Community College expects to award associate’s degrees to 25 percent more students than it did one year ago, said Colorado Community College System spokeswoman Rhonda Bentz.

“We are seeing significant increases in graduation rates,” Bentz said Wednesday, after pouring through preliminary numbers from some of the metro area schools.

The Colorado Department of Higher Education won’t have official graduation numbers for several weeks.

Bleak job prospects for some

Of course, the big numbers just mean more competition for jobs in a job market that is bleak, to say the least. Career advisors say graduates can expect to spend six to eight months on a job hunt. Therefore, they’re encouraging students to start looking around long before graduation day.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers recently reported that employers expected to hire about 7 percent fewer graduates in 2009-2010 than they did in 2008-2009. At CU-Boulder, fewer recruiters visited the campus this spring over last.

Lisa Severy, director of the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Career Services office, said the news “is more hopeful as we’ve progressed into the spring.”

“It’s a funny challenge working with students,” Severy said. “As with any other pursuit, the more effort you put in the more you get out of it.”

Severy said students nearing graduation fall into two camps when job prospects don’t look so hot. They either network like crazy long before graduation day, making the most of career and alumni services and doing things like cleaning up their Facebook profiles and polishing up their resumes. Or, they shut down.

“They go, ‘This is awful,’ and they avoid it,” Severy said. “They move home with their parents, they think about grad school.”

Fortunately, Severy said in the last couple years, she’s seen more students opting for the first option.

This year’s strongest sectors include the technical and education fields, although state and city school district budget cuts have weakened the education sector somewhat, she said. Metro’s career services office is spotting some jobs opening up in the government sector and in healthcare.

Severy said the primary skill graduates may need is patience.

“Because the job market is tricky right now it can take longer to find a job, so students need to get a thick skin in terms of rejection,” Severy said.

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