Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 05/2015

High costs, uncertain benefits: What do Americans without a college degree think about postsecondary education?

Andrew P. Kelly

April 2015

American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research


Many adults without a college degree aspire to some higher credential, but most overestimate the cost of higher education, which could deter them from furthering their education. Many adults without a degree in our survey were uncertain as to the wage returns to different postsecondary pathways. Those who did offer estimates tend to see the bachelor's degree as the most valuable credential and certificates as the least valuable. Adults without a postsecondary degree do not always see the value in returning to school, and efforts to encourage education and training should clarify the benefits to various postsecondary pathways.