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What about the non-completers? The labor market returns to progress in community college

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  • Zeidenberg, Matthew
  • Scott, Marc
  • Belfield, Clive

Abstract

Despite copious research on the labor market returns to college, very little has adequately modeled the pathways of non-completers or compared their outcomes with those of award-holders. In this paper, we present a novel method for linking non-completers with completers according to their program of study. We use this method to calculate the labor market returns to programs of study, accounting for those who obtain an award and those who do not. We use a large dataset of community college transcripts matched with earnings data. We find that different classification systems – by algorithm, intent or goal – yield very different enrollment patterns across programs. Importantly, these classifications make a substantial difference to earnings patterns. Returns vary by program completion and by program non-completion. Consequently, combining completers and non-completers yields a new pattern of returns. We find that the variance in returns by subject of study is reduced when we combine data on completers and non-completers. In particular, the large returns to nursing awards are substantially lower when we account for the probability of completing a nursing program and the returns to not completing a nursing program. In addition, progression per se does not lead to higher earnings for non-completers: progressing further in a nursing program is no different from accumulating general college credits. If validated, these findings have significant implications for policies on program choice and on student retention policies.

Suggested Citation

  • Zeidenberg, Matthew & Scott, Marc & Belfield, Clive, 2015. "What about the non-completers? The labor market returns to progress in community college," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 142-156.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecoedu:v:49:y:2015:i:c:p:142-156
    DOI: 10.1016/j.econedurev.2015.09.004
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Jacobson, Louis & LaLonde, Robert & G. Sullivan, Daniel, 2005. "Estimating the returns to community college schooling for displaced workers," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 125(1-2), pages 271-304.
    2. Pedro Carneiro & James J. Heckman & Edward J. Vytlacil, 2011. "Estimating Marginal Returns to Education," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(6), pages 2754-2781, October.
    3. John Bound & Michael F. Lovenheim & Sarah Turner, 2010. "Why Have College Completion Rates Declined? An Analysis of Changing Student Preparation and Collegiate Resources," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(3), pages 129-157, July.
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    5. Webber, Douglas A., 2014. "The lifetime earnings premia of different majors: Correcting for selection based on cognitive, noncognitive, and unobserved factors," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(C), pages 14-23.
    6. Christopher Jepsen & Kenneth Troske & Paul Coomes, 2014. "The Labor-Market Returns to Community College Degrees, Diplomas, and Certificates," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 32(1), pages 95-121.
    7. Doyle, William R., 2009. "The effect of community college enrollment on bachelor's degree completion," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 28(2), pages 199-206, April.
    8. Rodney J. Andrews & Jing Li & Michael F. Lovenheim, 2012. "Quantile Treatment Effects of College Quality on Earnings: Evidence from Administrative Data in Texas," NBER Working Papers 18068, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    10. Liu, Vivian Y.T. & Belfield, Clive R. & Trimble, Madeline J., 2015. "The medium-term labor market returns to community college awards: Evidence from North Carolina," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 42-55.
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    Cited by:

    1. Leslie S. Stratton & Nabanita Datta Gupta & David Reimer & Anders Holm, 2017. "Modeling Enrollment in and Completion of Vocational Education: The Role of Cognitive and Non-cognitive Skills by Program Type," University of Western Ontario, Centre for Human Capital and Productivity (CHCP) Working Papers 20172, University of Western Ontario, Centre for Human Capital and Productivity (CHCP).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Returns to college; Non-completion; Postsecondary education;

    JEL classification:

    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions
    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs

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