HAMILTON TOWNSHIP — Anna Spencer wants her daughter’s goals for higher education to be balanced — studying something in a practicable and employable field while also following her passions.

Spencer and her daughter Krystal, 17, a senior at Egg Harbor Township High School, attended Sunday’s open house at Atlantic Cape Community College in Mays Landing.

Krystal, who plans to study for two years at the college and transfer to a four-year school, is interested in psychology, teaching and writing.

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“I told her she could do writing as a secondary major. It’s good to have a passion, and she is passionate about writing, but you have to be realistic in this world,” her mother said.

Prospective students and their parents attended ACCC’s open house as well as its 50th annual College Fair, which featured dozens of colleges.

For many students and their parents, the economy brought more attention to studies that translate well to the job market, said Richard Perniciaro, director of the Center for Regional and Business Research at Atlantic Cape Community College.

“They’re much more practical now in terms of what their future is, and lot of it is economics,” he said. “A lot of people realize there are a lot of college graduates out there still unemployed after a couple of years, and it really has become more of what they think about before they start college.”

The college itself has recognized this trend.

It plans to break ground Nov. 1 on a $16 million science, technology, engineering and math building at the Mays Landing campus. Construction of the 32,475-square-foot building is expected to take 18 months.

The fields of study there, including technology, are often considered among the more in-demand professions.

“I think students and parents are actually getting more in tune to the fact it does matter what you take in college, it’s not just the college degree you’re after,” Perniciaro said. “And you have a better chance of a job or higher wages if you’re in a demand field.”

Mary Eileen Durante, a 19-year-old Atlantic Cape sophomore from Northfield, spent Sunday afternoon looking for schools that offered programs that fit the field she wants to study, which is animals.

Now studying psychology, she plans to transfer next year to continue her studies.

Durante said the economy worries her some right now, and she knows of some friends who have found it hard to find jobs in today’s market.

“With animals, it’s going to take me time, but I’m not as worried,” she said. “The economy’s bad right now. I hope maybe after the election the economy will get better.”

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