ERIC Identifier: ED433076
Publication Date: 1999-07-00
Author: Peterman, Dana.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for
Community Colleges Los Angeles CA.
Measuring the Economic Benefits of Community College Attendance
Using Community College, Unemployment Insurance, and State Agency Data. ERIC
Determining the Economic Benefits of Attending Community College, edited by
Sanchez and Laanan, provides information on the techniques of measuring the
economic outcomes of community college attendance. This Digest concentrates on
one aspect of the journal, the various ways states measure student economic
performance. Performance measures are critical to improve and illustrate
institutional effectiveness, though the limitations of those measurements must
be communicated to reduce the possible misunderstanding of legislators, local
communities, and students.
Until recently, the economic benefits of attending a community college have
been unaddressed or hidden from public view. U.S. Census measures of educational
attainment and earnings do not include two-year colleges as a separate category,
and state efforts to collect such data have been uneven. Passage of the federal
Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act (VATEA) in 1990
created an incentive for states to develop and implement a system of
accountability measures. To receive federal funding through the Perkins Act,
states are expected to develop standards and measures to evaluate the quality of
vocational education programs in four areas (cited in Sanchez and Laanan, 1998
from the U.S. Department of Education, 1998):
* Measures of learning and competency gains, including student progress in
the achievement of basic and academic skills
* One or more measures of performance such as competency attainment, job or
work-skill attainment, retention in school, or placement in school, job, or
* Incentives and adjustments designed to encourage service to targeted groups
and special population students
* Procedures for expanding existing resources and methods used by other
programs receiving federal assistance, such as the Job Training Partnership Act
Program and the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills Training Program
To meet the requirements of the Perkins Act and to maximize the benefits of
performance measures, states have embarked on different means to measure
economic benefits of attending community college.
Several proposed accountability measures
link community college attendance to student earnings. Rather than use survey
data to gather this information, states have created data links between
Unemployment Insurance (UI) earnings information and community college
administrative records through the students' Social Security numbers. This
procedure achieves a higher rate of return of information at a lower cost than
surveys or the analysis of administrative records alone could achieve. However,
each state varies in its ability to collect data because state laws, reporting
procedures, and higher education agency organizations differ.
The Washington State Board for Community and
Technical Colleges links college data files with other administrative records
from the Employment Security Department. Through the assistance of the Workforce
Training and Education Coordinating Board, it creates partnerships with the
managers of the Job Training Partnership Act and other programs to defray the
cost of data linking. The partnership results in the Data Linking for Outcomes
Assessment (DLOA) program. DLOA contains one record for each student for every
three-month period with information on firms for which the student worked, and
colleges attended for a six-year time frame. Uniquely, DLOA contains the number
of hours a student has worked in a quarter (Seppanen, 1998).
North Carolina uses three multivariable
collection systems called Critical Success Factors, Annual Programs Review, and
Common Follow-Up System. Critical Success Factors include seven critical factors
and 33 measures of program success to measure a common core of indicators of
success, and measures of progress. Annual Programs Review collects outcome
measures of program and college satisfaction, goal attainment, employment rates,
and employer satisfaction. Common Follow-Up System includes records of
individual enrollments in education, training, and placement programs in
addition to program participant demographics, and UI wages for individuals
before, during, and after training (Gracie, 1998).
Florida gathers performance measurements from
several systems broken into a common three-tier measurement system. Measurements
are applied across all workforce education and development programs at
progressively detailed levels. Tier 1 measures outcomes for all workforce
education system-wide. Tier 2 looks at program level measurements such as
postsecondary education. Tier 3 examines program operations and management and
outcome measurements demanded by federal and state agencies (Pfeiffer, 1998).
Student records organized by Social Security
numbers are matched with the California Community Colleges Chancellors' Office
Management Information System (COMIS) database and UI records. Using median
gross wages for comparison, a measure for full-time employment is extrapolated.
Measurements of student last-year-in-college earnings and first-year-out of
college earnings are used as baselines for third-year-out of college earnings.
Students are also classified by vocational student, skill upgrade student, and
enrollment concentration categories. Additional links to the California State
University system are used to remove transfer students from the outcome measures
APPLYING PERFORMANCE MEASURES
In every state, attempts are
being made to link performance measures to funding, value, and change. While the
Perkins Act requires states to measure performance, a few states have developed
additional detailed measurements. Performance measures communicated to students,
faculty, staff, and the communities demonstrate the institution's value to
inform critical planning decisions made by all parties. Programs that do not
create high wage positions, or meet the needs of employers or communities can be
placed under review.
CAVEATS AND LIMITATIONS TO PERFORMANCE MEASURES
government analyzes and reports state information too late for strategic
planning. Therefore, some states use their data to act proactively, but
accumulated data based on earnings have limitations. In states that rely
exclusively on UI and college records to meet measures of performance, some
employments are excluded, for example federal employees, the military, and the
self-employed. In areas where these represent significant number of employees,
performance measures are not representative. Local wage earnings and measures of
inflation also need to be taken into consideration. The reporting practices of
some state agencies may impede the gathering of accurate performance measures.
The problem of incorrectly classifying or lumping together disciplines with
highly variable wage earnings results in inaccurate outcome measurements.
Finally, cross-state comparison is difficult because state measurements systems
are not standardized.
This Digest attempts to demonstrate the various
ways states have derived measurements to illustrate the positive economic
outcomes associated with attending community college. While all states have
access to nearly the same data, complex interrelationships and state practices
pose limitations. However, some states are working toward communicating timely
results of student economic outcomes to concerned constituents and potential
economic partners in order to create greater opportunities for general funding
and specific programs.
This Digest is drawn from New Directions for
Community Colleges, Number 104, edited by Jorge R. Sanchez and Frankie Santos
Laanan, published in Winter, 1998: "Determining the Economic Benefits of
Attending Community College."
Carvell, F., Graham, M., & Piland. W.E. Institutional Level
Implementation: Translating Research into Current Practice. (pp. 69-76).
Foote, E. Sources and Information: Economic Benefits of a Community College
Degree. (pp. 103-111).
Gracie, L.W. Measurable Outcomes of Workforce Development and the Economic
Impact of Attending a North Carolina Community College. (pp. 53-60).
Hutchinson, K.R., Kline, S.S., Mandt, C., & Marks, S.L. Partnering to
Identify and Support High-Wage Programs. (pp. 61-68).
Laanan, F.S. Descriptive Analysis of Students' Post-College Earnings from
California Community Colleges. (pp. 77-88).
Pfeiffer, J.J. From Performance Reporting to Performance-Based Funding:
Florida's Experiences in Workforce Development Performance Measurement. (pp.
Sanchez, J.R ,& Laanan, F.S. Economic Benefits of a Community College
Education: Issues of Accountability and Performance Measures. (pp. 5-16).
Sanchez, J.R. Looking Ahead: A National Measure of Post-Community College
Earnings. (pp. 89-94).
Seppanen, L. Translating Data into Useful Information and Knowledge. (pp.
Stevens, D.W. Employment and Earnings Outcomes: New Perspectives. (pp.
Wiseley, W.C. Collaborative Administrative Record Matching in California.