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Evaluating Student Outcomes at For-Profit Colleges


  • Kevin Lang
  • Russell Weinstein


Using the Beginning Postsecondary Student Survey, we examine the effect on earnings of obtaining certificates/degrees from for-profit, not-for-profit, and public institutions. Students who enter certificate programs at any type of institution do not gain from earning a certificate. However, among those entering associates degree programs, there are large, statistically significant benefits from obtaining certificates/degrees from public and not-for-profit but not from for-profit institutions. These results are robust to addressing selection into the labor market from college, and into positive earnings from unemployment, using imputation methods and quantile regression along with a maximum likelihood sample selection model.

Suggested Citation

  • Kevin Lang & Russell Weinstein, 2012. "Evaluating Student Outcomes at For-Profit Colleges," NBER Working Papers 18201, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18201
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    1. James J. Heckman, 1976. "The Common Structure of Statistical Models of Truncation, Sample Selection and Limited Dependent Variables and a Simple Estimator for Such Models," NBER Chapters,in: Annals of Economic and Social Measurement, Volume 5, number 4, pages 475-492 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. David J. Deming & Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 2012. "The For-Profit Postsecondary School Sector: Nimble Critters or Agile Predators?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 26(1), pages 139-164, Winter.
    3. Crump, Richard K. & Hotz, V. Joseph & Imbens, Guido W. & Mitnik, Oscar A., 2006. "Moving the Goalposts: Addressing Limited Overlap in Estimation of Average Treatment Effects by Changing the Estimand," IZA Discussion Papers 2347, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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    Cited by:

    1. Lang, Kevin & Weinstein, Russell, 2013. "The wage effects of not-for-profit and for-profit certifications: Better data, somewhat different results," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(C), pages 230-243.
    2. Gilpin, Gregory A. & Saunders, Joseph & Stoddard, Christiana, 2015. "Why has for-profit colleges’ share of higher education expanded so rapidly? Estimating the responsiveness to labor market changes," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 53-63.
    3. 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.
    4. Armona, Luis & Chakrabarti, Rajashri & Lovenheim, Michael, 2017. "How does for-profit college attendance affect student loans, defaults, and earnings?," Staff Reports 811, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
    5. Cellini, Stephanie Riegg & Chaudhary, Latika, 2014. "The labor market returns to a for-profit college education," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 125-140.
    6. Stephanie Riegg Cellini & Nicholas Turner, 2016. "Gainfully Employed? Assessing the Employment and Earnings of For-Profit College Students Using Administrative Data," NBER Working Papers 22287, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Thompson, Jeffrey P. & Bricker, Jesse, 2014. "Does education loan debt influence household financial distress? An assessment using the 2007-09 SCF Panel," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2014-90, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).

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    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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