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Does Higher Ed Lead to a Living Wage? It Depends.

Does Higher Ed Lead to a Living Wage? It Depends.

Inside Higher Ed

Katherine Knott
February 21, 2024
Students who graduated from nearly one-fourth of America’s colleges and universities earned less than a $15 minimum wage 10 years later, a new report released Tuesday found.
The analysis of federal data from the HEA Group, a research and consulting agency focused on college access and success, compared the earnings of about five million graduates of 3,887 institutions. It used four metrics—including whether the graduates earned more than the federal poverty line or more than a typical person whose highest level of education is a high school degree—to gauge the return on investment for students. Nearly all of the institutions cleared the poverty-line metric, but more than 1,000 failed the high school earnings test.
“The low ROI of some of these schools begs the question of whether students should be burdened with federal loan debt after they attend,” said Michael Itzkowitz, co-founder of the HEA Group and author of the report. “Many of these schools failed to provide students with a living wage, which makes the ability to pay down their educational debt nearly impossible.”
For the analysis, Itzkowitz looked at whether the majority of students at an institution, 10 years after graduation, earned more than the federal poverty line ($14,580), 150 percent of the federal poverty line ($21,870), a $15 minimum wage ($30,000) or the average adult with only a high school diploma ($32,000). Itzkowitz said those metrics represent “the most generous measure that we can use to evaluate institutions of higher education.”
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