Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Brookings "Value Added" Data

The Brookings Institution has come out with a “value added” ranking of myriad 4-year and 2-year colleges.  Essentially, it is an attempt to rank the extra pay and other attributes graduates receive adjusted for student and college characteristics. Some of the dependent variables related to things like loan repayment and completion rates. There is a measure based on “mid-career” (10-year experience) earnings reported by grads to an online source. For 4-year schools, mid-career earnings refer only to grads who stopped their educations at the bachelor degree level. Another measure involves how the school moved grads into particular occupations that may (or may not) pay well. It uses national average pay by occupation (including pay due to degrees beyond the bachelor level). 

Below are the value added scores (percent above predicted) for the various UC campuses for mid-career earnings (all alumni) and occupation, respectively.

UC-Berkeley      42%  8%
UCLA             26%  7%
UC-Davis         32%  7%
UC-San Diego     29%  7%
UC-Irvine        27%  7%
UC-Santa Barbara 31%  5%
UC-Riverside     22%  3%
UC-Santa Cruz    22%  7%
UC-Merced        na   0%

For comparison:
USC              25%  5%
Stanford         53% 12%
Cal States:
 Long Beach      20%  3%
 Northridge      13%  5%

You’ll notice that a) the data are noisy and b) hard to interpret. That’s probably just as well. Although the authors say the data are useful for deciding on where to go to college, they are probably more useful for making broad generalizations about the economics of higher education than evaluating one school against another. The authors in fact provide such generalizations:

Five college quality factors seem to be key to how well students perform economically in the years after college:

Curriculum value: The amount earned by people who hold degrees in a field offered by the college;

Alumni skills: The average labor market value of skills listed on resumes;

STEM orientation: The share of graduates prepared to work in STEM occupations;

Completion rates: The share earning their degrees within four years for a two-year college and eight years for a four-year college;

Student aid: The average financial support offered by the institution.

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