Plenary Session: Do Students Invest Wisely in College?
This plenary session summarized the labor market returns to college. Panelists presented evidence on returns to bachelor’s and associate degrees, as well as returns to the many sub-baccalaureate awards offered by colleges. Key differences in returns—for example, across awards, subjects, institutions, and student attributes—were highlighted. This evidence was examined in light of recent and expected changes in the structure of the labor market.
Breakout 1A: Returns to Community College: More of the Big Picture
There are many ways in which labor market returns to college can vary. Using large-scale statewide administrative datasets and national surveys, this session reported on how returns vary across programs, enrollment patterns, and states.
Breakout 1B: Returns to Short-Term Stays in College
The labor market returns to short-term stays in college—either to get a certificate or other sub-degree award, or simply to get credits—are typically weaker than the returns to degrees. This session looked at how robust the labor market returns are across the range of short-term stays in community colleges.
Breakout 1C: Returns to Technical and Vocational Programs
Labor market returns to vocational courses are typically higher than those for academic courses. This session looked at patterns in returns across different technical and occupational programs.
Thomas Bailey, Community College Research Center and CAPSEE
Plenary Session: Does Society Invest Wisely in College?
This plenary session examined the labor market consequences of public funding for colleges. The panelists described the effects of financial aid systems on college completion and students’ subsequent earnings; they also considered how financial aid and state subsidies could be reformed to improve labor market outcomes for students.
Breakout 2A: Financial Aid: More of the Big Picture
Financial aid is a multifaceted policy for improving educational and economic outcomes. This session provided an overview of key trends in financial aid policy.
Breakout 2B: Pell Grants and College Outcomes
Pell grants are critical to helping many students complete their college education. This session considered how effective and efficient the Pell grant system is at maximizing educational and economic outcomes.
Breakout 2C: Working While Enrolled in College
Many students combine work—often full-time work—with their college studies. This session examined what the optimal conditions are for combining employment and college enrollment.
Plenary Session: Are Colleges Structured to Optimize Investments?
This plenary session examined whether colleges are organized so students can gain high returns to college. Panelists examined which college characteristics or practices are most strongly associated with labor market success, with a focus on the labor market returns to for-profit colleges. Panelists also considered what organizational changes might be made to colleges to enhance the economic value of attending college.
Breakout 3A: Helping Community College Students Invest in a Bachelor’s Degree
A high proportion of students lack the information or guidance to progress successfully through college. This session described how these obstacles impede college completion, leading students to underinvest in college-level skills.
Breakout 3B: Which College to Attend
Students can choose from a vast array of colleges and universities. This session reported on which institutional features are associated with superior economic outcomes.
Breakout 3C: Barriers to Investing
Even for students who are academically prepared, there are still many barriers to making the most of college. This session looked at some of these barriers and what approaches students can use to get over these barriers.
Plenary Session: Are Colleges Guiding Students to Choose Valuable Programs and Pathways?
This plenary session considered whether the choices students make in college are likely to ensure their future labor market success. Panelists presented evidence on whether students are choosing programs with strong earnings and employment outcomes and whether the particular college pathways they pursue—such as transferring to a four-year institution or combining work with study—are advantageous. Panelists also considered whether colleges are making the decisions that students must make about courses, programs, and pathways too complicated, and how these options might be simplified so that students can maximize their benefits from college.