What's the ROI for Education

The U.S. Chamber Foundation and USA Funds have launched an interactive tool to calculate postsecondary return on investment. The guide compares earnings potential to educational investment for degree and certificate programs.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation recently introduced “Launch My Career,” a first-in-the-nation, interactive tool that provides students with information about the return on investment in a certificate or degree from public postsecondary schools, including technical schools and community colleges.

“At a time when student debt is mounting and employers are struggling to find the right people with the right skills, it is imperative that students make informed decisions about the best way to prepare for in-demand jobs,” says Cheryl Oldham, senior vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Center for Education and Workforce. “This tool will allow consumers to easily identify careers, majors and institutions of interest and compare the value of each program.”

The U.S. Chamber Foundation initiative is supported by one of four College Value grants from USA Funds totaling $3.5 million. The grants support development in 12 states of new models for measuring college value to help students and their families, policymakers and postsecondary institutions make more informed decisions about the training and skills that provide the greatest value to students and their communities.

The “Launch My Career” tool provides degree-seeking individuals access to data that:

  • Identifies “hot jobs” in demand across the state and in particular regions, as well as the degree or certificate programs that will prepare students for those roles.
  • Compares projected future earnings to the investment required to graduate from a particular school and program.
  • Analyzes the earnings potential of many career options.
  • Helps students understand the personal and professional satisfaction that accompanies different careers and courses of study.

“Launch My Career is the only tool that provides information on the ROI of public postsecondary education,” says Mark Schneider, president of College Measures, a division of the American Institutes for Research, which helped to develop the tool. “The tool is a game changer for students, allowing them to select the right degree program or institution based on their interests and preferred jobs and then compare their selection across multiple institutions.”

Other features of the tool include a lifestyle goal calculator, showing the number of years it will take for the salary from a particular occupation to meet a user’s lifestyle goals, and a break-even calculator, which shows the number of years it will take after completing a particular degree program for earnings to exceed the total net price of the program.

The tool, which launched first in Colorado, will be launched next in Tennessee. Learn more about the Colorado tool at launchmycareercolorado.org.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2016 issue of College Planning & Management.

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