Funding Higher Education is Good for Job Creation

The way to put community colleges to work in job creation does not end with funding issues and putting smart legislation in place. Students also need better information about postsecondary options and their associated returns.

A new report, Graduated Success: Sustainable Economic Opportunity Through One- and Two-Year Credentials highlights how the field of study chosen by students matters a lot in terms of the economic value and employability of a postsecondary education. The report also shows that finishing a community college credential, even a one-year certificate, is often a smarter bet than going for broke and borrowing huge amounts and not completing a four-year degree.

In particular, one- and two-year credentials in engineering and in health care can deliver higher salaries than bachelors degrees in other fields — for tuition costs that are lot less.

According to the report, forty-three percent of those who hold a certificate as their highest degree earn a median annual salary that is higher than that earned by someone holding an associates degree. And twenty-seven percent of those holding a community college certificate as their highest degree earn a median annual salary that is higher than someone holding a bachelors degree. Nearly a third (31 percent) of associates degree holders earn more than someone holding a bachelors degree.

Students awarded one- or two-year certificates earn median annual salaries that are $8,000 a year more than those who leave school with no post-secondary award.

The salaries earned by those with community college certificates in engineering and health care ($47,000 and $46,000 respectively), are close to what bachelors degree holders in the social or natural sciences earn, and are actually more than what someone holding a bachelors degree in education earns.

National job trends also point to bright prospects for students seeking careers with a community college credential in hand. From 2006 to 2016, job growth for associate degree holders was projected to be at 19 percent, nearly double the average for all workers. The health care sector was expected to generate more new jobs by the end of this period than any other industry, and the engineering field also looked rosey.