Community College Boosts Employment Among Black, Hispanic Students, Study Finds

Black and Hispanic students enjoy higher levels of employment than people in other demographic groups who graduate from college, but many drop out before they can realize those gains, according to a new study.

The organizers of the report, released Thursday by The Boston Foundation and MassINC say the findings argue for both the importance of community college funding and the value it can have for people in communities underserved by traditional higher education.

“Low-income and under-represented minorities tend to come from high schools, which makes them less prepared to enter the workforce,” said Alicia Modestino, senior study author and economist and professor at Northeastern University. . “If they can go to community college, they can get a much higher return than someone with a higher income who has had better academic opportunities. “

The study, which followed thousands of high school graduates in Massachusetts between 2010 and 2018, found that black and Hispanic students are twice as likely as their white counterparts to attend community college. While these students are only about half the chance of graduating, they receive a 7-10 percentage point increase in employment and slightly larger earnings gains when they do.

The findings come as Massachusetts community colleges face shrinking enrollments and growing budget cuts.

Last fall, Massachusetts Community College registrations fell about 11 percent, or 8,600 students, according to the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education. The declines were most pronounced – about a third – among black and Latino college students.

The results of the study released Thursday also show different earnings patterns for men and women at community colleges.

Men who earn an associate’s degree or certificate earn between $ 5,500 and $ 9,000 more per year than their male peers who have only completed high school. But men who don’t finish school don’t see any difference in their pay.

Women earn $ 1,550 more per year just from attending community college, even if they don’t graduate. But they can get up to $ 8,000 more per year at the end of their programs.

Modestino said women seem to earn slightly more income overall after community college due to the dynamics of the job market for people without a post-secondary degree. Men often have more lucrative employment options such as construction roles that are not as often filled by women.

According to the study, women who attended community college directly after high school to earn a health degree earned 61% more than women with only a high school diploma. Male health graduates saw a 25% increase over their male peers who had only a high school diploma.

But the report noted that not all degrees offer increased earnings.

While healthcare and STEM-related studies brought big gains across all fields, men with liberal arts degrees earned 10% less on average than their peers with just a high school diploma. . (Women with liberal arts degrees earned more than their high school peers.)

“There are huge variations, and it’s something that students should know, parents should know, guidance counselors should know, and states should know,” she said.

Samantha Subin can be reached at [email protected]

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