All or Nothing? Economic Returns to College Credits and Degrees

Jessa Valentine, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Eric Grodsky, University of Wisconsin-Madison

In this paper we assess the labor market payoff to postsecondary credits and degrees in an era of increasing postsecondary enrollments, rising attendance costs, and low degree completion rates. While most research and a national political agenda focused on college completion emphasizes the importance of degree attainment, less is known about the benefits of accruing some college credits without degree receipt—despite the growing numbers of college-goers who fall into this category. Results based on the National Longitudinal Study of Youth 1997 cohort suggest that the labor market returns to an AA and BA have remained strong. Returns to credit accumulation for non-degree-holders, however, accrue to women but not to men.

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Presented in Poster Session 8: Economy, Labor Force, Education, and Inequality/Gender, Race and Ethnicity