Shoreline among best in the nation for the value of an associate’s degree

Getting an education at Shoreline Community College is a good investment for students and taxpayers, according to a new national study.

“We are always striving to help our students reach their goals while being mindful of the cost and benefits to them, our community and taxpayers,” Interim President Daryl Campbell said. “This study measures and validates our work. Just as importantly, the study acknowledges the unique challenges for community and technical colleges and their value to our economy.”

The study, “What’s the Value of an Associate’s Degree? The Return on Investment for Graduates and Taxpayers” was released in early October, 2013. It looks at 579 community colleges across the U.S. The sample represents nearly 60 percent of all community colleges and more than 80 percent of all enrollments. The Nexus Research and Policy Center and American Institute for Research worked together to produce the study.

Education at Shoreline is not only a good investment, according to the study; it is the best in Washington and among the best in the nation.

For students, the data indicate that Shoreline graduates earn $456,269 more over their lifetime than if they had stopped at a high-school degree. By comparison, the study data show a negative benefit for graduates of some colleges.

For taxpayers, the payoff of a Shoreline graduate is $117,164 over their lifetime when compared to stopping at a high-school degree. The taxpayer benefit weighed the costs of providing a public-supported education in tax dollars spent against the increased taxes paid by graduates due to increased earnings.

“Job-placement rates for graduates coming out of many of our professional-technical programs are very good,” Campbell said. “Many of these are family-wage jobs with opportunities for career-long advancement.

“At Shoreline, we work hard to make sure our degrees and certificates are relevant to our students’ goals, whether those goals are immediate employment or moving on to a four-year university.”

As examples, Campbell cited the biotechnician, automotive technician, nursing and dental hygiene programs. “These programs are closely aligned with employers so our graduates can move quickly into jobs,” he said.

Shoreline is also the largest provider of Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) programs in Washington. These shorter term programs focus on providing employable skills for students who may be worried their English language or basic reading and math skills might hold them back. Shoreline’s I-BEST programs are:

“I-BEST programs are a great way for students to come get some skills, get a good job and help themselves, their families and the economy,” Campbell said. “Once their lives are in order, these students may come back for additional education and perhaps a degree.”

While the study does rank specific colleges by return on investment, the authors acknowledge the limits of the data available and the difficulty in assessing and answering such a broad question:

“Public two-year colleges … are widely recognized as vital to preparing the nation’s workforce and educating seekers of bachelor’s degrees who are looking for an affordable first two years of college.

“We recognize the multiple dimensions of the community college mission and that for many students, attaining an associate’s degree is not why they enrolled.”

The study also acknowledges that completing a degree is often not the goal.

“Students enroll in community colleges to pursue a variety of goals, not all of which culminate in earning a credential or transferring to a four-year institution … These students do not complete the full degree because they are able to be employed and even this partial education is likely to generate significant economic gain for them and the taxpayer.”

The bottom line is, according to the study: “Even after factoring in the costs that graduates incur when earning a degree, the associate’s degree is a good investment.”


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