By Jon Marcus at The Hechinger Institute, CNNMoney
New York (CNNMoney) -- Berevan Omer graduated on a Friday in February with an associate's degree from Nashville State Community College and started work the following Monday as a computer-networking engineer at a local television station, making about $50,000 a year.
That's 15% higher than the average starting salary for graduates -- not only from community colleges, but for bachelor's degree holders from four-year universities.
"I have a buddy who got a four-year bachelor's degree in accounting who's making $10 an hour," Omer says. "I'm making two and a-half times more than he is."
Omer, who is 24, is one of many newly minted graduates of community colleges defying history and stereotypes by proving that a bachelor's degree is not, as widely believed, the only ticket to a middle-class income.
Nearly 30% of Americans with associate's degrees now make more than those with bachelor's degrees, according to Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce. In fact, other recent research in several states shows that, on average, community college graduates right out of school make more than graduates of four-year universities.
The average wage for graduates of community colleges in Tennessee, for instance, is $38,948 -- more than $1,300 higher than the average salaries for graduates of the state's four-year institutions.