Skip to main content

Is Your Degree Really Worth It? BPC Breaks Down the ROI of Higher Ed

Washington, DC – Today, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s higher education team released a new report, Which Colleges are Worth the Cost? Institution-Level Return on Investment for Students and Taxpayers. The report outlines an improved methodology for estimating the return on investment (ROI) of college enrollment that could pave the way toward better regulation of higher education institutions.

Along with the report, we’re excited to publish a brand-new search tool that lets students and taxpayers look up the ROI for their institution. BPC is also making the data from the report and search tool available for download.

“College pays off for most students, but there are hundreds of institutions in the United States that aren’t worth attending,” said Kevin Miller, BPC associate director of higher education and co-author of the report. “Taxpayer dollars keep these institutions running even when they award credentials with little value in the labor market and trap students in debt. We need to make sure that institutions cashing in on federal student aid aren’t leaving students worse off than when they enrolled.”

We present a new comprehensive model of student ROI that addresses shortcomings in existing estimates. The model is based on a cost-benefit analysis of the total lifelong student financial gains (or, in some cases, losses) produced by a student’s enrollment at a particular institution relative to the costs of attending that institution. The model also accounts for disparate labor market outcomes across gender, race, and ethnicity, addressing concerns about how to create metrics that more fairly assess ROI across institutions with different missions and with diverse student populations.

The report’s policy recommendations include:

  • Improving data collection and analysis by the Department of Education,
  • Enforcing accountability standards for higher education institutions that receive federal student aid,
  • Increasing transparency for prospective students, and
  • Boosting funding to minority-serving institutions

Click here to read the full report and use the search tool. 

For questions or to speak to Kevin Miller, please contact Senior Manager of Media Relations Kyle Fischer.

Read Next