RALEIGH, N.C. — An estimated 1.5 million students will graduate from college this year. Thousands of them are getting their degrees this weekend in the Triangle.
North Carolina State University graduated nearly 7,000 seniors this school year, its largest class ever.
“They came in and said that we have more students than we expected,” said graduate Michael Peace.
In between the pomp and circumstance, college graduations typically offer a wide range of emotions. But this year, N.C. State graduates took a moment to reflect and remember those affected by the shootings at Virginia Tech.
“I wish I had taken one of their colors on my gown,” said graduate Cortney Herring. “I saw one guy who had their colors in a ribbon on there for them, and I wish I had done it myself.”
Still, graduation is about optimism. Both Herring and Peace know that better than most, since they've both been through this four times apiece. During the first three ceremonies, they helped as volunteers, but this time they're actually graduating.
The biggest graduating class brought a large crowd. In fact, it was the largest crowd ever at the RBC Center, with about 10,000 people.
Last week, North Carolina Central University set its own records for graduates and ceremony attendees. The U.S. Census Bureau said 28 percent of adults 25 and older had a college degree last year, up from three years before.
Those numbers are likely to keep rising. The most recent census findings show nearly half of all 18- and 19-year-olds were in college in 2005.
According to Job Outlook 2007, employers anticipate hiring 17 percent more college graduates this year than last. However, some undergraduates picking up a diploma plan on taking the next step with their education.
“My parents would tell me they didn't really need a college degree to get a job,” Herring said. “Now, I see people who have college degrees and still work in the mall and other things. So grad school is even required these days.”
The Triangle hosted some other graduations Saturday, as Peace College graduates heard from the school's first alumna president, Laura Carpenter Bingham. St. Augustine's graduates also turned their tassels for the school's 140th commencement.
It was a special day for Shaw University graduates as well, as 420 diplomas were handed out at Dorton Arena. The commencement speaker was Bank of America executive Milton Jones. It was the school's 142nd graduation ceremony.
Fayetteville State University held its 140th commencement Saturday, as hundreds of proud parents, family members and friends watched their graduate walk across the stage. State Rep. Garland Pierce -- a Fayetteville State alumnus -- gave the commencement address.