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Evaluation Services

Evaluation of economic outcomes in postsecondary education.

Evaluating the Economic Outcomes of Degree and Credential Programs

In parallel to its work as an accreditor, the Postsecondary Commission (PSC) partners with state agencies, postsecondary institutions, and workforce development organizations to evaluate the economic outcomes of higher education programs. PSC uses the same value-added earnings methodology in its accreditation practice and its evaluation service.

This methodology measures the wage gains that specific institutions and programs generate for students. PSC does this by comparing the actual earnings of a cohort of students to an estimate of what those same students would have earned without any further higher education. It then compares this wage gain to the costs those students paid for their education.

Strengths of PSC’s Value-added Earnings Methodology

PSC works with the research and analytics firm – Mathematica – to implement this measurement model and manage the analyses with partners. Mathematica brings extensive expertise in relevant domains, including economics, statistics, and social science research.

The value-added earnings methodology used in PSC’s program evaluation (and accreditation) has several strengths, including:

  • Examines Entrants. PSC’s value-added earnings protocol analyzes – from the time of entry – the wage outcomes and costs of all entrants in an institution, not just its completers. This then accounts for both retention and graduation rates.

  • Controls for Student Inputs. PSC’s methodology carefully constructs comparison earnings estimates that specifically account for the student characteristics most predictive of future earnings.

  • Accounts for Lost Wages. By observing students’ actual wages from the time of entry, PSC’s methodology accounts for the indirect costs that students often incur in the form of lost wages while enrolled.

  • Creates Optimal Incentives. Institutions that do well under PSC’s value-added earnings methodology are ones that optimize for low prices, high graduation rates, and high wages.

Contact Us

PSC is currently seeking partnerships with state agencies, postsecondary institutions, and workforce development organizations to pilot its evaluation service. This work is limited to institutions that do not engage with PSC as an accreditor. To learn more, contact PSC at