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### Analyzing the Impact of Higher Education on Attaining a Livable Income

The earnings of graduates were analyzed by the HEA Group in a recent report, comparing them to a $15 minimum wage and three other benchmarks.

According to the analysis of federal data by the HEA Group, a research and consulting agency focusing on college access and success, graduates from almost one-fourth of colleges and universities in America earned less than a $15 minimum wage a decade after graduation. The study examined the earnings of approximately five million graduates from 3,887 institutions using various metrics to assess the return on investment for students. While most institutions met the poverty-line metric, over 1,000 institutions fell short in terms of earnings compared to individuals with only a high school education.

Michael Itzkowitz, the co-founder of the HEA Group and the report’s author, highlighted the concerning return on investment from certain schools, questioning the necessity of burdening students with federal loan debt when they struggle to attain a living wage post-graduation.

The analysis focused on whether the majority of students from each institution, a decade after graduation, surpassed key income thresholds including the federal poverty line, 150 percent of the poverty line, a $15 minimum wage, or the average earnings of adults with a high school diploma. Itzkowitz emphasized the significance of these metrics in evaluating higher education institutions.

The study revealed that a significant percentage of for-profit colleges failed to meet the high school earnings benchmark compared to public and private nonprofit institutions. The analysis also highlighted the challenges faced by graduates from for-profit institutions offering certificate programs in achieving sustainable earnings post-graduation.

The findings of the study align with existing knowledge on the economic advantages of pursuing postsecondary education. Itzkowitz emphasized the importance of ensuring that students benefit economically and gain confidence from their educational investments.

As skepticism regarding the value of higher education grows, the study aims to address concerns about the correlation between rising college costs and the earnings potential post-graduation. The analysis serves as a crucial contribution to the ongoing dialogue surrounding the economic benefits of a college education.

Nicole Smith, chief economist at Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, noted that while the results were not surprising, they raise pertinent questions that could inform potential policy interventions. She emphasized the continued value of education and a college degree, underscoring the importance of informed decision-making when choosing educational paths.