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The Value of an Incomplete Degree: Heterogeneity in the Labor Market Benefits of College Non-Completion.

Matt Giani, Paul Attewell, David Walling. Journal of Higher Education. August 2019

Abstract

Many states have set college completion goals and begun funding institutions at least partially based on credentials conferred to address the issue of low college completion rates. An assumption underlying these approaches is that college non-completion does not “pay off.” Using data on a cohort of Texas high school graduates in 2000, we compare the labor outcomes fifteen years later of college non-completers to non-college-goers. We find that students with “some college” have significantly better labor outcomes compared to their peers who do not go to college, with low-income students and students of color generally deriving the greatest benefits. Our results suggest college non-completion functions for many as a stepping-stone into a better labor market position.

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