Teachers College, Columbia University

Learning and Earning in the Middle: The Economic Benefits of Sub-Baccalaureate Education

By W. Norton Grubb

This report reviews the available evidence on the economic benefits of postsecondary education below the level of the baccalaureate degree, concentrating on the effects of community colleges.

Several new national datasets have become available over the past decade, expanding the number and detail of potential findings. In addition, states have begun using Unemployment Insurance data to measure the employment and wage effects of their postsecondary programs. While the state and local analyses available are still limited, the results are quite similar to those from national studies, and they can be used for purposes different from national studies.

In general, the results indicate substantial benefits for many postsecondary pathways, particularly when individuals complete programs, enroll in certain occupational areas, and find employment related to their fields of study. However, under certain conditions, economic benefits fail to materialize, highlighting the value of empirical evidence rather than ideology or hearsay in helping inform students, educators, and policymakers.

Two articles based on this report, "Learning and Earning in the Middle, Part 1: National Studies of Pre-Baccalaureate Education," and "Learning and Earning in the Middle, Part II: State and Local Studies of Pre-Baccalaureate Education,"  were published in Economics of Education Review, vol. 21, issues 4 and 5.