"Following up on previous Brookings research measuring the value colleges add to student outcomes irrespective of student characteristics, this study analyzes the Obama administration’s new College Scorecard database to produce value-added rankings for 3,173 colleges (1,507 two-year colleges and 1,666 four-year colleges), based on the earnings of alumni."
"Value-added measures attempt to isolate the contribution of the college to student outcomes, as distinct from what one might predict based on student characteristics or the level of degree offered. It is not a measure of return on investment, but rather a way to compare colleges on a more equal footing, by adjusting for the relative advantages or disadvantages faced by diverse students pursuing different levels of study across different local economies.
Using the Scorecard data and other sources, this analysis finds that:
1. Graduates of some colleges enjoy much more economic success than their characteristics at time of admission would suggest.
2. Four college quality factors are strongly associated with higher earnings for alumni:
Curriculum value: The amount earned by people in the workforce who hold degrees in a field of study offered by the college, averaged across all the degrees the college awards;
STEM orientation: The share of graduates prepared to work in STEM occupations;
Completion rates: The percentage of students finishing their award within at least 1.5 times the normal time (three years for a two-year college, six years for a four-year college);
Faculty salaries: The average monthly compensation of all teaching staff
3. Value-added measures are fairly reliable over time. "