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Community Colleges Provide Higher Financial Returns in Short Term

A new report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce looked at institution types that give the most returns on investment using new data from the expanded College Scorecard.

A First Try at ROI: Ranking 4,500 Colleges report found community colleges and many certificate programs having the highest return on investment in the short term, which is 10 years after the enrollment.

Out of the 30 institutions with the best short-term net economic gains, 26 primarily grant certificates or associate’s degrees. Certificates in nursing are particularly valuable in the short term. Returns on investment from bachelor’s degrees eventually overtake returns from most two-year credentials.

“Everyone is asking, ‘Is college worth it?’ and we set out to try to find an answer,” said Dr. Anthony P. Carnevale, lead author and CEW director.

“Not only will it help students, but this kind of information on the costs and benefits of higher education holds institutions more accountable.”

Degrees from private nonprofit college offers more return on investment in the long run (40 years) than a degree from a public university. After paying off student loan debt, a private college graduate will reap a long-term net economic gain of $838,000, compared to $765,000 for graduates of public colleges.

Out of 10 colleges with the best long-term net economic gain, eight are private nonprofit institutions.

Even in the short term, private college graduates reported earning $8,000 higher than graduates of public colleges.

“Students and their parents should take advantage of data by institution to make more informed financial decisions about where to attend college,” said Ban Cheah, co-author of the report and research professor.

Theological institutions, beauty schools and colleges specializing in the arts were ranked among institutions with the lowest long-term economic value range.

TCUs Graduates Satisfied With Their College Experience

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