Policy makers are becoming increasingly concerned about the high percentage of students who attend postsecondary education without completing a degree. Researchers have studied numerous potential determinants of retention behavior for postsecondary students, such as financial aid, socioeconomic status, academic preparedness, academic and social integration, and expected future wages. However, none of these studies considers students’ earnings while in school as a potential determinant of retention.
This paper provides the first detailed empirical evidence of the labor-market returns to community college diplomas and certificates. Using detailed administrative data from Kentucky, we estimate panel-data models that control for differences among students in pre-college earnings and educational aspirations. Associate’s degrees and diplomas have quarterly earnings returns of nearly $2,000 for women, compared to returns of approximately $1,500 for men. Certificates have small positive returns for men and women in most specifications.
English Learners, students who are not proficient in English and speak a non-English language at home, make up more than 10 percent of the nation’s K-12 student body. Achieving proficiency in English for these students is a major goal of both state and federal education policy, motivating the provision of bilingual education policies. Using data for nearly 500,000 English Learners from California, I show that students in bilingual education have substantially lower English proficiency than other English Learners in first and second grades.