News & Events / Seven research teams will explore how to equitably improve postsecondary value for student

Seven research teams will explore how to equitably improve postsecondary value for student

Washington, DC (December 8, 2023) – The Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) is spearheading a new research series that will offer fresh insights about the economic benefits of a college degree and explore critical questions about the equitable delivery of postsecondary value. The seven-paper series, “Elevating Equitable Value: Investigating Economic Outcomes of Postsecondary Education”, led by researchers from around the country, will build on insights developed by the IHEP-managed Postsecondary Value Commission. The new research will add to a growing knowledge base aimed at helping federal, state, and institutional decisionmakers implement policies that improve the returns on postsecondary education for all students.   

“The economic value of education after high school still depends heavily on student’s race, ethnicity, and income. That should not be the case,” said IHEP Vice President of Research and Policy, Diane Cheng. “We want the insights from this series to inspire policy and practice innovations at the federal, state, and institutional levels that improve the equitable delivery of postsecondary value so all students, regardless of circumstance, go on to benefit from their postsecondary experience.”  

The selected researchers will use data from IHEP’s Equitable Value Explorer and other sources to explore topics including geographic variation in equitable postsecondary value among community colleges, economic returns from rural-serving colleges, and the economic value provided by Hispanic-serving institutions. The papers will begin to be released in spring of 2024. 

The Postsecondary Value Framework developed by the Postsecondary Value Commission recognizes the multifaceted value postsecondary education provides students and society, including economic and non-economic benefits. Central to this framework are six economic value thresholds designed to contextualize post-college earnings and wealth outcomes. The framework measures how and how much students are better off because of their postsecondary education. 

The Equitable Value Explorer is an interactive resource that captures students’ post-college earnings for more than 4,000 colleges and universities nationwide. Explorer users can analyze and compare institutions against the Postsecondary Value Framework and view outcomes for different student populations.  

By commissioning research on equitable postsecondary value, IHEP is driving informed policy and practice improvements at the institutional, regional, and state levels. These solutions can help more students, especially Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, Asian American students who are underrepresented, and students from low-income backgrounds earn a credential that leads to a better living and a better life. 

The selected researchers will receive funding and guidance from IHEP to enhance the field’s understanding of postsecondary value.  

Projects Exploring Equitable Postsecondary Value  

  • Adjunct Labor and Inequality in Higher Education – Frederick Turner of City University of New York (CUNY) will examine the relationship between postsecondary faculty status, student body composition, and post-college earnings to understand the impact of adjunct and part-time faculty on economic value at minority-serving institutions and colleges serving a large share of Pell Grant recipients. 
  • Place Matters: Exploring Geographic Variation The American Institutes for Research will explore how regional economic factors are tied to community colleges’ ability to meet each value threshold. 
  • Economic Returns Across Rural-Serving Colleges – Boston College’s project will analyze earnings outcomes in rural areas by comparing the economic value provided by rural-serving institutions relative to urban and suburban institutions.  
  • Equitable Postsecondary Value Delivery: American Association of State Colleges and Universities’ Student Success Equity Intensive (SSEI) – AASCU’s research paper will explore how institutions participating in their SSEI program are expanding institutional capacity to drive student success and improve economic value for Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students, and students from low-income backgrounds. 
  • Hispanic-Serving Institutions and Hispanic/Latinx Students in TexasDallas College Research Institute will analyze the economic value of more than 500 Hispanic-serving institutions nationwide using Equitable Value Explorer data and will leverage state longitudinal data to interrogate outcomes for Hispanic/Latinx students across the state relative to the economic value thresholds.  
  • Exploring Equitable Postsecondary Value at Universities in Michigan – Wayne State University’s project will combine educational and workforce outcomes data to assess the impact of postsecondary education on economic outcomes and social mobility for students in Michigan. 
  • The Durability of Financial Distress  – Trellis Strategies will investigate how student financial well-being correlates with each economic value threshold and will study the relationship between economic value and students’ financial decisions in pursuing a degree based on data from the Equitable Value Explorer and Trellis’s Student Financial Wellness Survey. 

For more information about the Equitable Value Explorer, please visit: