Conference Examines Labor Market Returns

by Michelle Massie
September 29, 2014

More than 200 researchers, faculty, staff and policy experts recently gathered for discussions of new and ongoing research on the labor market returns to a wide range of higher education pathways during a conference hosted by the Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment (CAPSEE) in Washington, DC.  Representatives of WDQC attended the event.

CAPSEE conducts research in partnership with five states—Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia—and receives funding from the U.S. Department of Education. During the conference, titled The Value of Education—And How to Further Strengthen It, presenters discussed ways to better understand and calculate the earnings and employment benefits associated with a college credential.

Employment outcomes, short-term credentials, student debt and performance funding were common topics during the two-day event. Policymakers have increasingly considered ways to hold institutions of higher education more accountable through performance funding models, such as the one adopted by Missouri.

One conference session focused on evidence on the economic returns to short- and long-term certificates issued by community colleges.

The session featured a draft study by Di Xu and Madeline Trimble, both from the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College, which measured the wages of former students who earned short-term certificates from community colleges in North Carolina and Virginia.

They classified certificates as non-degree awards. The length to complete was one year or less of full-time study.

The researchers concluded:

  • Significant positive wage returns to certificates
  • Substantial variations not only in field of study but also in specific programs even within a field
  • Suggestive evidence that returns to certificates are closely related to their labor market alignment
  • Noticeable differences in program offerings and economic returns between states

This research is of interest to WDQC as we continue to encourage states to develop a process for industry validation of awarded credentials across education and workforce programs and increase the range of credentials (certificates, certifications, licenses) being counted in addition to degrees.