Researchers Criticize Plan to Remove Key Question in American Community Survey

When research in 2011 showed that workers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics earned a premium of 25 percent over other workers and have just a 5.5-percent unemployment rate, it reinforced strong economic incentives to get more people into those STEM fields.

But research like that might soon become more difficult to conduct. That’s because the U.S. Census Bureau wants to stop asking people in a key national survey about their field of study.

Since 2009 the bureau h…


Free Fall in For-Profits’ Enrollment May Be Slowing

Between government investigations and plummeting student numbers, for-profit colleges have had a rough few years.

Dozens of colleges saw double-digit drops in enrollment, and in 2012 a U.S. Senate committee released a damning report on the for-profit-college sector, concluding that some colleges had dropout rates above 50 percent and that the industry was spending more on marketing than it was on instruction.

However, new enrollment data suggest things may soon be looking up for the sector. Anal…


Measuring Humanities Degrees Misses Much of Their Value

Plenty of people know how much they paid for their college degree. Fewer can tell you what it’s actually worth.

That disparity is something new research from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities Indicators project is hoping to fix.

The project is focusing on wage data from the American Community Survey, but some say using earnings as a sole measure of success misses the value of a degree and how it serves society.

“We’re trying to figure out what the best measure for this is,” s…


Underemployment Hits Recent Graduates the Hardest

Stories of college graduates working as baristas and taxi drivers have played into a narrative about how college-degree recipients are struggling to find work that uses their education.

At the same time, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the jobless rate for workers with at least a bachelor’s degree fell to 2.9 percent for the month of September. How can both be true? Many of those with jobs are considered “underemployed,” since they are in jobs that don’t require a college degree…


Is a Degree Still Worth It? Yes, Researchers Say, and the Payoff Is Getting Better

One could be excused for thinking the value of a college degree is in a downward spiral. With overall student-loan debt topping $1-trillion and tuition racing upward, to college graduates facing high levels of underemployment and stagnating wages, it might appear college simply isn’t worth it.

However, a study released on Tuesday by two researchers with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York concludes the opposite is true: The value of a bachelor’s degree is near an all-time high.

The researchers,…


Business Is a Big Draw for International Students in the U.S.

Previous research has shown that international students at American colleges and universities tend to be concentrated in specific areas, such as business and engineering. Now a new report from the Brookings Institution goes deeper in telling us who these students are, which cities they are coming from, and where they end up staying.

Nearly one in three international undergraduate students comes to the United States to study business, management, or marketing, according to the Brookings researche…


Digging Through Data for the Real Story on Student Loans

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Education released new data on student-loan repayment that included figures on loan delinquencies—potentially good news for those interested in how well students are faring when it comes to paying back their loans.

The release precipitated an article the following Monday in The Huffington Post by Shahien Nasiripour titled, “Half Of Federal Student Loan Borrowers Not Paying On Time.” In his article, Mr. Nasiripour broke down the data and stated, as the headline p…


What Does $75-Million Mean to the NCAA?

The National Collegiate Athletic Association announced on Tuesday that it would pay $75-million to settle a class-action lawsuit over concussions in college sports.

Rather than paying damages to former players who have suffered concussions, as the NFL has done, the NCAA will devote most of the money to brain screenings for current and former NCAA athletes and to set up preventive measures for future players. Of the total, $5-million will pay for research on concussions.

So how much is the NCAA s…


How to Lie With Education Data, Part 2

On Tuesday I wrote about a tongue-in-cheek post at Forbes that tried to make a point about the cost of college. I argued that the piece failed readers by falsely equating cost and value, among other problems.

A subtler but more worrisome example of misleading data appeared on Monday at the top of an article in The New York Times about the predatory activities of some debt-settlement companies, two of which stand accused of charging exorbitant fees to student-loan borrowers for free federal debt-…


How to Lie With Education Data, Part 1

The well-known quotation is usually attributed to Mark Twain: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” But even that attribution is probably untrue.

No matter who said it first, the point is clear. We’ve all seen data used, either intentionally or unintentionally, to misrepresent or distort the truth.

A couple of examples popped up in the past week, specifically related to the cost of college and the burden of student debt. We’ll take a look at one example here, and an…