American adults place the highest value on educational programs that closely align with career pathways.
- Relevant courses, not wages have the strongest link to how consumers assess the value of their education experience.
- Among those with terminal bachelor's degrees, graduates saw greater career and cost value in fields traditionally associated with careers, such as healthcare and education — even if those careers are less lucrative financially.
- Those who started postsecondary education and did not complete saw the least value from their experience with only a quarter of them agreeing it was a worthwhile experience, suggesting that we must continue the efforts to improve postsecondary completion in this country.
- When education consumers believe they are provided high-quality, applied learning experiences and excellent career and academic advising, their assessment of value increases regardless of their program of study.
Strada Education Network believes the best way to understand whether someone’s education is valuable is to ask them. For more than three years, we’ve listened to over 340,000 Americans tell us about their experiences with education after high school. We’ve asked consumers whether they felt their education was worth the cost, and if they felt it made them an attractive job candidate. We call the relationship between those measures the Education Consumer Value Equation. It’s a new, consumer-centered model that expands our understanding of what makes an education valuable from the perspective of the individuals who pursue it.
The insights it provides are important for educators, employers and policymakers to consider. For example, as we focused our analysis on the responses of more than 90,000 Americans who pursued postsecondary education during the past two decades, we found their perceptions of value vary significantly across pathways. Individuals are more likely to strongly agree that their education is worth the cost and that it makes them an attractive job candidate when they can most clearly connect their education to their work. We also see this strong connection between learning and careers when consumers find their courses are relevant to work, when they receive high-quality, applied-learning experiences and excellent career and academic advising.
Consumers’ voices offer guidance that can transform the value equation in postsecondary education by building on the traditional economic measures of value. It’s time to include education consumers in the conversation.