Create a free Diverse: Issues In Higher Education account to continue reading

New Study Measures ‘Return on Investment’ in Cal Higher Education

A new study measures “return on investment” in California higher education for low- and moderate-income learners and analyzes whether they can quickly recoup their costs of attending.

Eloy Ortiz OakleyEloy Ortiz OakleyGolden Opportunities: Measuring Return on Investment in California Higher Education for Low- and Moderate-Income Learners was commissioned by College Futures Foundation with a specific focus on the state’s low- and moderate-income learners. The report seeks to inform the state and nation’s approach to ensuring that higher education delivers on its promise for students of all backgrounds.

“Like many Californians, we wanted real answers about how long it takes students in this income category to recoup their educational costs,” said College Futures Foundation President & CEO Eloy Ortiz Oakley, former Chancellor of the California Community Colleges.

“California’s future must be one in which learners and their families feel confident in higher education’s value and unique ability to improve economic outcomes, close equity gaps, and enable learners to benefit from upward mobility as they achieve their dreams.”

Golden Opportunities compares out-of-pocket costs for a degree with the earnings outcomes of roughly 731,000 low- and moderate-income undergrads at 292 institutions, who collectively enroll some 1.9 million certificate- and degree-seeking students.

“This study is unique in that it is one of the first looks at California postsecondary ROI that focuses on low- and moderate-income students — and it looks at student outcomes data as opposed to survey responses,” said Michael Itzkowitz, founder and president of the HEA Group, and the report’s lead author and researcher.

Michael ItzkowitzMichael ItzkowitzThe report’s analysis includes public, private, not-for-profit, and for-profit educational institutions and is based on data reported by the institutions to the U.S. Department of Education.

Golden Opportunities provides a starting point for leaders, institutions, and communities to delve into what is working and what is not. Itzkowitz said the goal of the report is to drive actionable conversations throughout the state and country on delivering value, improving access, and creating meaningful improvements in student outcomes.

Several colleges and universities in the state, defined by their relative inclusivity, act as engines of economic and social prosperity. But millions of Californians, particularly older adults, are frozen out of opportunities to earn a postsecondary degree or credential and subsequent better jobs.

The study found that most California institutions (79%) allow their low- and moderate-income students to recoup their education costs in five years or less; for nearly a third (31%) of the institutions, students can recuperate costs in under a year. It means that students earn a high enough premium — while paying an affordable enough price — to quickly pay down their costs of earning a credential.

Most colleges and universities in California deliver on this promise, but some fail. As such, the report suggests that leaders consider examining the return on investment of specific programs within an institution.

A New Track: Fostering Diversity and Equity in Athletics
American sport has always served as a platform for resistance and has been measured and critiqued by how it responds in critical moments of racial and social crises.
Read More
A New Track: Fostering Diversity and Equity in Athletics