The Value of Higher Education
How choosing a school, a major, and a degree can affect return on investment
Policymakers, students, parents, and the media are taking a hard look at the value of higher education. Which college to choose? Associate's or Bachelor's degree? What major? The research featured here offers insight on how those choices affect students' success and future earnings.
Prospective college students need sound information about where their educational choices are likely to lead. This report indicates that some graduates with associate's degrees outearn those with bachelor's degrees in their first year, and finds what a person studies can produce higher earnings than where he or she studies.
AIR expert Mark Schneider partnered with Money Magazine to develop its rankings of "The Best Colleges for Your Money." Learn more about the research underlying the findings and view Schneider's reports on the earning power of college graduates in states across the U.S.
Community colleges are complex organizations and assessing their performance, though important, is difficult. The authors of this study focusing on North Carolina's community colleges, measuring the success of each college along two dimensions: attainment of an applied diploma, or degree; or completion of the coursework required to transfer to a four-year college or university.
Associate's Degree versus Bachelor's Degree
While a bachelor's degree remains a good investment for most students, not all have the time, money, or inclination to complete the degree. Depending on subject studied and location, those with associate's degrees or certificates often out-earn those holding a bachelor's. Here are the fast facts.
The bachelor's degree has been seen as the doorway to the middle class for most Americans, but the recent rise of sub-baccalaureate credentials has been transforming higher education. In this video series, "Breakthroughs in Education and Social Mobility," expert Mark Schneider examines the value of such credentials.
Given the high cost of earning a degree—and, frequently, the debt burden that goes with it—students, parents, policymakers, and the media are questioning higher education's value. Holders of associate's degrees earn more income and are less likely to be unemployed than high school students, making it a sound investment for many people.
Given the importance of a college education to entering and staying in the middle class and the high cost of obtaining a bachelor's degree, Who Wins? and Who Pays? are questions being asked today at kitchen tables and in the halls of government throughout the nation. This study shows that the answers are different than what is commonly found in the media.
What Do Graduates Earn?
Higher Education Pays: The Initial Earnings of Graduates from Colorado's Colleges and Universities Working in Colorado
This report show that in Colorado, higher education pays off for those who earn postsecondary credentials. Graduates with postsecondary degrees working in Colorado after graduation can average as much as $20,000 more than high school graduates.
The authors of this report, the result of a partnership between the State Council on Higher Education in Virginia and College Measures, explore the variation in first-year earnings for graduates from individual degree programs at individual colleges. The results show that the degrees students earn, and where they earn them, matter.
Labor Market Experiences After Postsecondary Education: The Earnings and Other Outcomes of Florida's Postsecondary Graduates and Completers
The type of degrees students earn, and where they earn them, matters. This study focuses on the median first-year earnings of recent graduates and completers from Florida's public postsecondary educational institutions.
Higher Education Pays: The Initial Earnings of Graduates of Texas Colleges and Universities Who Are Working in Texas
The earnings of recent bachelor's and master's recipients in Texas vary not only by degree but by specific program and institution.