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Report on Earnings Outcomes for Massachusetts Colleges

By Stig Leschly
December 1, 2021

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Most college students view college as a ticket to a well-paying job. They choose among colleges and pick majors based, more than anything else, on their need for a good salary and strong career prospects after graduation. For these students, there is good news from the US Department of Education’s College Scorecard that recently released data that allows for a better-than-ever look at which degrees and institutions actually result in a good wage after graduation.

The Postsecondary Commission dove deep into this new data set to examine the earnings of graduates from Massachusetts colleges. In our analysis, we partnered with Michael Itzkowitz, Senior Fellow at Third Way, who has analyzed college earnings data extensively. To give context for our analysis, we also took an opening, empirical look at graduation rates and other metrics across the college sector in the Commonwealth.

Our analysis sheds well-earned praise on Massachusetts colleges in some areas. For example, 55% of degree programs in the Commonwealth — many of them in the state’s public 4-year colleges — allow typical graduates to earn a lot more than they would have without college and to pay back the cost of college in less than 10 years from these added wages.

On the other hand — and this should be a cause for discussion, if not alarm — in 26% of degree programs in Massachusetts, typical graduates earn less than they would have if they had never gone to college, or they receive only a modest bump in wages from college and need 20+ years to recoup the cost of college.

Our analysis should raise wide-ranging questions about the college sector in Massachusetts, and we hope it stirs debate. One immediate conclusion from the analysis is that colleges — and the public agencies and accreditors that oversee them — should ramp up efforts to collect, organize and share data on college earnings outcomes with students and families. On that suggestion, at least, nobody should disagree.

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