True Value: A New Model for Measuring The Value of Postsecondary Education By Listening to Americans

Survey of 340,000 adults informs creation of Strada Education Consumer Value Equation, providing new insight into learners’ needs and priorities

INDIANAPOLIS — A report released today by Strada Education Network maps out a new approach to measuring how education consumers perceive the value of their educational experiences beyond high school. The report, “Changing the Value Equation for Higher Education,” draws on data collected from over 340,000 Americans in the Strada-Gallup Education Consumer Survey and finds that American adults place the highest value on educational programs that closely align with career pathways.

The report introduces Strada’s Education Consumer Value Equation, which considers value based on both how strongly consumers believe their education was worth the cost, and makes them an attractive job candidate. This tool seeks to refine and build upon economic measures of education value.

“Educators, policymakers, and advocates have spent the last decade debating ways to make education more valuable to students — but, until now, consumer voices have been largely missing from the conversation. With the Education Consumer Value Equation, we’re equipping players throughout the educational ecosystem to take targeted action to address students’ needs,” said Carol D’Amico, Executive Vice President, National Engagement and Mission at Strada Education Network. “Consumers are telling us, loud and clear, that they want educational programs to connect directly with their career paths. It’s time that we listen.”

While recent studies have focused on lifetime wages to measure the value of a college education, Strada’s survey indicated that consumers see the most value in their education when they can clearly perceive its connection to a career. The analysis shows that graduates of vocational programs and graduate degree programs see more value in their educational experiences than graduates of terminal bachelor’s and associate degree programs. Respondents who stopped out of their programs before graduating were the least likely to believe their education was worth the cost or that it strengthened their job candidacy, with only a quarter saying so.

Among graduates with terminal bachelor’s degrees, consumers 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. The report also found that, across all majors and pathways, workers who believed their coursework was relevant to their job found more cost and career value in their education.

“The data is telling policymakers, employers and educators alike that students in any major, from engineering to English to psychology, want to know how to connect their learning to a future job. We must work together to better help learners make those connections through advising, mentoring and applied learning,” said Sarah J. Bauder, Chief Transformation Officer for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. “As they consider investing their time, money and hopes in postsecondary education, consumers need to see that it will connect them with a purposeful pathway. That’s when they find value.”

To read the full report, click here.

About Strada Education Network

Strada Education Network is a national social impact organization dedicated to improving lives by forging clearer and more purposeful pathways between education and employment. The Network engages partners across education, nonprofits, business and government to focus relentlessly on students’ success throughout all phases of their working lives. Together, we address critical college to career challenges through strategic philanthropy, research and insights, and mission-aligned affiliates.