Even In A Recession, An Associate Degree Pays Off

Career College Central summary:

  • A new study shows that attaining an associate degree — even during an economic downturn — generally yields economic benefits. Historically, enrollment at community colleges increases during economic recessions as workers return to school to upgrade their skills or to seek a different career path. A new report from the Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment (CAPSEE) at Columbia University finds that the economic returns of earning an associate degree remained "substantial and consistent” throughout the recent recession.
  • The study added that there was a large variation in the economic returns by programs of study, with nursing degrees yielding large gains, and education/childcare degrees yielding no returns for women and negative returns for men. (Degrees in construction, mechanics and welding, and allied health also yielded high returns.)
  • The study looked only at community college student outcomes in North Carolina, but its findings are similar to a study by Columbia’s Community College Research Center that examined economic outcomes on community college students in Washington State?, according to CAPSEE researchers. The CAPSEE review tracked incomes five years after initial enrollment for students enrolling between 2001 and 2008 and completing an associate degree. It found that the advantage conferred by a degree remained consistent — about $4,800 per year for women and $3,000 per year for men — despite the recession starting in late 2007.

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