Colleges are increasingly measured against workforce outcomes, specifically employment rates and salaries of graduates. This report discusses the challenges of defining and applying such measures and suggests the document can provide a foundation for future conversations. Instead of an employment or placement rate, the report says, "it may be most accurate and honest to generate an employment match rate along with earnings." In addition to median earnings, the report recommends providing the range of earnings. And finally, earnings information should be reported at the programmatic level.
In the area of college education, the poor have made some strides, but very small ones compared with their more well-to-do counterparts. The report cites research that shows the largest attainment gains came at the top of the income distribution and the lowest rates at the bottom. The top income quartile gained 18 percentage points in completing college, while the bottom quartile gained by only four percentage points. These data illustrate that the income inequality in college outcomes has increased at a time when the economic benefits of educational attainment are rising.
The Government Accountability Office found that Department of Veterans Affairs education payments, mostly through the Post-9/11 GI Bill, were used in a small percentage of schools in fiscal year 2011. The GAO identified 654 schools that received at least $2 million in VA education payments and referred to these as "highly VA-funded schools." In terms of the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits specifically, public and private sector institutions received about the same portion, 38 percent and 37 percent respectively, and private nonprofit the other 25 percent. The report found that "highly VA-funded schools generally had more positive outcomes than other VA-funded schools," including retention and graduation rates.
This report was originally released in 2012 as a working paper and subsequently was revised based on numerous critical comments about the data and methodology. As the title indicates, the results now differ and basically show that "no statistically significant differential return to certificates or associate's degrees between for-profit and not-for-profits."
This press release contains a summary of the report, the major finding of which says that higher education is not the widely believed equalizer for people of different socioeconomic backgrounds but instead actually perpetuates racial inequality. The authors found white overrepresentation in the nation's elite and competitive colleges, whereas African Americans and Hispanics are overrepresented at open institutions.
This report is part of the Completion by Design five-year initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to work with community colleges to increase completion and graduation rates for low-income students. The report recommends that states reward dual enrollment as a strategy to promote college readiness and completion. It presents several funding options, including a range of funding, using different sources for the funding, differential funding based on target students such as low-income students, allowing colleges to set their own success targets, and differential performance funding metrics depending on the college mission.
PSCUs open doors to many of the 9 million unemployed and 90 million undereducated Americans by providing a skills-based education. To remain competitive over the next decade, we must identify between 8 and 23 million new workers with postsecondary skills. PSCUs are a necessary part of that solution, having produced over 800,000 degrees last year alone.