By David Brand
Classes began at Plaza College in Forest Hills on Monday and for a crop of first-year students, that meant encountering a new and potentially lucrative device: the stenotype machine.
As many current court reporters near retirement, court reporting has become an in-demand job. As such, even new court reporters fresh out of training programs can earn close to six-figure salaries.
But first, students must attain a writing rate of 225-words per minute on the 22-key stenotype machine, a tool that differs significantly from a typical QWERTY keyboard.
Plaza College has about 250 current students in the court reporter program and enrolls a new class three times per year in the fall, winter and spring. Each year, about 150 students enter the program, which trains students for lucrative positions in the court reporting and captioning sector. The program combines liberal arts courses like English and math with stenotype classes.
“With a number of active reporters retiring, and a lack of qualified reporters to take over, there will be an estimated 5,000 court reporting job openings in the next few years,” Plaza College says on its website. “And because electronics can’t ensure or testify to the accuracy of the words or punctuation they’re capturing, court reporters are indispensable.”
In 2017, the average salary for a court reporter in New York State was more than $89,000, according to the state Department of Labor.
Though many students begin with zero experience on the stenotype, they quickly develop comprehension and speed. Once they do, job openings beckon.
The day after Queens-native Daniel Joseph took his final stenotype exam — where he demonstrated his ability to write 225 words per minute — he began his career as a court reporter for American Stenographic.
Joseph said he valued his experience at Plaza College because of the “amount of patience and dedication the faculty showed.
“The faculty is one of a kind and they care about the student’s overall outcome,” Joseph said.
Another student named Darien Manel said she was inspired to pursue court reporting after seeing how her neighbor’s daughter enjoyed the job.
“Although I loved my job, I always felt that I wanted something more,” Manel said. “My neighbor’s daughter was a court reporter and always talked about how much she loved her job. I decided to look into court reporting school and called to get some information. As soon as I got my hands on my writer, I knew this was what I wanted to do.
Plaza also enables prospective students to get a headstart via the National Court Reporting Association’s A to Z program, a free workshop series that enables people interested interested in stenography to familiarize themselves with the machine. Plaza will host the A to Z program on campus this fall.
Over the past year, Plaza College has grown by absorbing several of the students who began their education at the New York Career Institute.
In 2017, the New York State Education Department approved an agreement to shift the New York Career Institute programs, students, and staff to Plaza College to protect NYCI students’ ability to complete their intended degrees.
The Education Department awarded Plaza College the right to offer NYCI’s programs in court reporting, paralegal studies, healthcare management and medical billing and coding.
Plaza College accepted all earned credits to help minimize interruption to the students’ originally intended graduation dates. Plaza also froze tuition and fees at the NYCI rates and enabled withdrawn students from previous years to return to complete their programs at the same cost until 2022.
Eric Allen, president of the Association of Surrogates and Supreme Court Reporters, addresses a class of Plaza College Court Reporting students. // Photo courtesy of Plaza College