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Study Demonstrates Value Of Community College
Education On Workforce Development

August 23 , 2005

New research has demonstrated the benefits of a community college education on personal earnings potential, according to the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office.
“This new, rigorous econometric study . . . supports prior research on the benefits of community college attendance,” said Willard Hom, Director of the CCC Research & Planning Unit.

The study, titled “The Returns of a Community College Education: Evidence from the National Education Longitudinal Survey,” was published in the Summer 2005 issue of the journal “Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis.” The researchers were David E. Marcotte of the University of Maryland, Thomas Bailey of Columbia University, Carey Borkoski of Anne Arundel Community College, and Greg Kienzel of the American Institutes for Research.

According to the researchers, “community colleges across the United States have historically helped people improve their economic well-being.”

The study included the following findings:

  • “….our findings illustrate that the labor market returns associated with a community college education are substantial. Moreover, we generally found substantial returns whether or not students completed degrees, although there were some differences between men and women. Given that community colleges regularly face criticism regarding low graduation rates, the positive returns of enrollment observed here—even in the absence of graduation—should provide some comfort to these institutions…” [pp. 171-172]
  • “We estimated that, on average, young men who enrolled in a community or technical college earned approximately 6 % more annually for each year of FTE [full-time equivalent] coursework completed even when they did not obtain a degree [associate or bachelor’s]…” [p.166]
  • “…men who had obtained an associate degree earned about 14.7 % more annually…than their peers with a high school education…” [p.166]
  • [For young men] “We found no significant difference between returns associated with earning a certificate and the returns associated with completing 1 year of FTE enrollment at a sub-baccalaureate institution. Since most certificates require credit hours equivalent to 1 year of full-time study, this suggests that the earnings advantage associated with certificates are due not to the value of the certificate as a credential but to the value of enrollment and study alone…” [p.166]
  • “In general, larger returns were associated with enrollment in and degrees obtained from community colleges for young women than for young men…women who had associate degrees earned about 47.6 % more annually…than their peers with a high school education [compared to 14.7 % for young men]…women earned 11.1 % more per year…for each FTE year of study in a community college [compared to the 6.6 % figure for young men]…[p.166]
  • “…the return associated with a certificate among women exceeded the return related to an associate degree among men. These differences in postsecondary education returns between men and women highlight the need to estimate empirical models separately by gender…” [p.166]

    For more information about the programs and services offered by Merced College, call (209) 384-6000.


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