Third Way Studies American Higher Education Outcomes in 2023

March 27, 2023

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Title: The State of American Higher Education Outcomes in 2023

Authors: Michael Itzkowitz, Kylie Murdock, Michelle Dimino, Emmi Navarro

Source: Third Way

Third Way has released an update to its 2019 report examining institutional outcomes on completion, post-enrollment earnings, and student loan repayment. The organization regularly examines these key areas to better determine and map a baseline level of quality education for college students.

This survey covered over 5,000 institutions of higher education, including certificate programs and two- and four-year degrees at public, private non-profit, and for-profit institutions in the U.S.

Key findings include: 

Four-year institutions

  • Most four-year institutions graduate most of their students, but fewer than half (48 percent) of for-profit institutions can say the same.
  • Because students see good earnings outcomes, they are more likely to start paying down their student debt faster, with 70 percent of four-year schools leaving their students on a path to pay down their loans within five years of leaving.
    • Two-thirds of public institutions and three-fourths of private non-profit four-year institutions show this outcome, but only 30 percent of for-profit four-year colleges can say the same. 

Two-year institutions

  • Most non-completers attend public two-year institutions, with 80 percent of these schools failing to graduate most of their students.
  • Despite low completion rates, most students attending two-year colleges see reasonable earnings outcomes, with 84 percent of them earning more than the typical high school graduate. However, only 41 percent of students can start paying down their student debt five years into repayment.
  • Private non-profit two-year colleges perform a bit better, with 57 percent seeing their students start to pay down their debt within five years.

Certificate-granting institutions

  • Fifty-four percent of institutions show most of their students graduating, but this still leaves many non-completers.
  • For-profit institutions have the worst earnings outcomes, with 74 percent of institutions leaving most of their students unable to meet this threshold.
  • Most students who attend these schools can start paying down their loans after five years, with 58 percent making progress on their debt within that period.

To explore findings and methodological information about the report and survey, click here.

—Alexandria M. Falzarano

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