About the Center

Funding and Purpose

The Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment was established in the summer of 2011 through a grant (R305C110011) from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) of the U.S. Department of Education to conduct research and provide national leadership (in cooperation with IES) for advancing knowledge about the relationship between postsecondary education and the labor market. The center’s activities came to a close in 2017.

Organization and Management

The center was housed and led by the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teachers College, Columbia University, and was operated in collaboration with the University of Michigan and with scholars at Harvard, Stanford, the City University of New York, the University of California, and the University of North Carolina. Professor Thomas Bailey, the director of CCRC, also served as the director of CAPSEE.

Representatives from five partner states providing data for core research (CA, MI, NC, OH, VA) acted as research collaborators, and individuals from two additional states recognized as leaders in terms of quality of state higher education data (TX, WA) served in an advisory capacity as affiliates. Center coordination, strategic direction, and research quality control were managed by a steering committee consisting of senior CAPSEE researchers. The center also maintained a three-member advisory board of outside scholars.

Core Research

CAPSEE conducted research on the labor market returns to different education pathways and on policies that aim to improve completion of pathways leading to strong economic returns.

The center analyzed a broad range of education pathways in two- and four-year colleges, with a particular focus on: (1) relatively short-term occupational degrees and certificates designed to improve labor market outcomes; (2) noncredit workforce programs that enroll millions of students and play an important workforce development role; (3) the burgeoning for-profit sector; and (4) the trajectory of earnings growth after college. On policy issues, the center evaluated a series of initiatives designed to improve student outcomes, focusing on policies that combine work and study, help students choose among educational pathways, and provide incentives to choose specific occupational programs.

Data Sources and Analysis

Center researchers made use of large-scale longitudinal administrative datasets on individual college students across a span of recent cohorts in five states. These datasets included detailed information on student characteristics, awards obtained, pathways taken through college, and academic performance in college (with high school information in some cases). National Student Clearinghouse data were used to track students who left the state, transferred, or enrolled in private institutions. These educational data were merged with unemployment insurance (UI) data on earnings. In addition, postsecondary administrative data were linked to the Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics database, which includes wage records from 30 states, allowing researchers to track students into employment out of state.

CAPSEE carried out multivariate analyses to measure the employment and earnings outcomes of a variety of education pathways and made use of methodologies that exploit exogenous variations to better estimate causal links.