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Community College Occupational Degrees: Are They Worth It?

By: Thomas Bailey & Clive Belfield

Abstract

Community College Occupational Degrees: Are They Worth It?

Thomas Bailey and Clive Belfield consider the role of community colleges, with particular attention to the benefits to workers (as measured by earnings) of certificates and degrees by field of study. Drawing on both a review of prior research and their own analyses of data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), the chapter provides useful insights into the labor market returns of community college outcomes. Building on a discussion of how the distinctions between occupational and academic credentials have been exaggerated, the authors conclude by offering recommendations for creating a more appropriate balance between occupational and academic education.

This paper was presented May 25, 2011, at a conference titled Preparing Today’s Students for Tomorrow’s Jobs in Metropolitan America: The Policy, Practice, and Research Issues, University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education.

The paper also appears as a chapter in Preparing Today’s Students for Tomorrow’s Jobs in Metropolitan America, edited by Laura Perna.