Archive for October 17th, 2014

Postsecondary Vocational Certificates Pay Off For Students

October 17th, 2014

STUDY

Is it Worth It? Postsecondary Education and Labor Market Outcomes for the Disadvantaged

Amber M. Northern, Ph.D. for the Fordham Foundation

This CALDER paper examines a range of postsecondary education outcomes for disadvantaged students—like enrolling and completing an associate or bachelor’s degree or gaining a vocational certificate—and respective salary data for these students during high school and for five years after their last educational institution. Analysts use Florida administrative data for two cohorts of students—over 210,000 in total—who graduated between 2000 and 2002, which enabled the researchers to observe between ten and twelve years of postsecondary and labor-market outcomes. They merge secondary school, postsecondary school, and earnings data, including courses taken in high schools, grades in those courses, overall GPA, and various college data, such as credits earned, major, and degree attainment. Controlling for demographics and prior achievement in high school, they unearth two findings: first, gaps in secondary school achievement likely account for a large portion of the differences in postsecondary attainment and labor-market outcomes between disadvantaged and other students; and second, earnings for disadvantaged kids are hampered by low completion rates in postsecondary programs, poor college performance, and their selection of low-earning fields. Yet they find that vocational certificates and associate degrees in health, transportation, construction, manufacturing, and security lead to relatively high pay for disadvantaged students and low-scoring high-schoolers. Specifically, those with vocational certificates earn 30 percent more than high school grads, and those with associate degrees pocket roughly 35–40 percent more. Analysts recommend, among other things, that public institutions do a better job partnering with industry associations and promoting high-potential career pathways—and that more high-quality apprenticeships be made available for the disadvantaged.
Benjamin Backes, Harry J. Holzer, and Erin Dunlop Velez, “Is It Worth It? Postsecondary Education and Labor Market Outcomes for the Disadvantaged,” CALDER (September 2014).