Degrees of Opportunity: Lessons Learned from State-Level Data on Postsecondary Earnings Outcomes

Earning a four-year degree has long been considered the most reliable pathway to the middle class. But as the cost of tuition rises, the economic value of two-year and other sub-baccalaureate degrees is coming into focus.  

This report from the American Enterprise Institute uses state administrative data and a return on investment analysis to determine the value of different postsecondary credentials. The authors examine outcomes for public college students in Florida, Tennessee and Texas and find that, while earnings vary by major, earning a bachelor's degree is not necessarily the only pathway to the middle class. Many regional universities and community colleges offer high-value sub-baccalaureate programs that lead to sustainable wages and satisfying careers. This report builds upon a growing body of literature demonstrating the value of sub-baccalaureate credentials.

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October 2017