Beyond College Rankings

A Value-Added Approach to Assessing Two- and Four-Year Schools


By, Jonathan Rothwell and Siddharth Kulkarni
Excerpt from Brookings

The choice of whether and where to attend college is among the most important investment decisions individuals and families make, yet people know little about how institutions of higher learning compare along important dimensions of quality. This is especially true for the nearly 5,000 colleges granting credentials of two years or fewer, which together graduate nearly 2 million students annually, or about 39 percent of all postsecondary graduates. Moreover, popular rankings of college quality, such as those produced by U.S. News, Forbes, and Money, focus only on a small fraction of the nation’s four-year colleges and tend to reward highly selective institutions over those that contribute the most to student success.

“ Compared to conventional rankings, the college value-added measures developed in this report more accurately predict alumni economic outcomes for students with similar characteristics.”


Click here to download full report

Five key college quality factors are strongly associated with more successful economic outcomes for alumni in terms of salary, occupational earnings power, and loan repayment:
• Curriculum value: The amount earned by people in the workforce who hold degrees in a field of study offered by the college, averaged across all the degrees the college awards;
• Alumni skills: The average labor market value, as determined by job openings, of skills listed on alumni resumes;
• STEM orientation: The share of graduates prepared to work in STEM occupations;
• Completion rates: The percentage of students finishing their award within at least twice the normal time (four years for a two-year college, eight years for a four-year college);
• Student aid: The average level of financial support given to students by the institution itself.

➤ Compared to conventional rankings, the college value-added measures developed in this report more accurately predict alumni economic outcomes for students with similar characteristics.

It definitely pays to get a college degree. Compared to typical individuals with only a high school diploma, bachelor’s degree holders earn $580,000 more and associate’s degree holders $245,000 more over their careers. In Kern County there’s a big jump from high school to four-year degree attainment – an individual can expect to earn more than twice the salary.

Average Annual Earnings

Highest Education Attainment Level Kern County Bakersfield
No Diploma $16,872 $19,130
High School Graduate $26,392 $28,089
Some College or Associate’s Degree $35,253 $36,899
Bachelor’s Degree $57,299 $58,317
Graduate or Professional Degree $70,682 $73,027

Source: U.S Census Bureau, 2013 American Community Survey (5-year estimates)


Brookings College Value-Added Data

Click here for interactive table with all two and four-year institutions.

424px-California_State_University,_Bakersfield_Seal.svg  California State University-Bakersfield



Bakersfield College  Bakersfield College

Bakersfield College has a predicted student-loan repayment of 83 percent, which is roughly the median for community colleges. And even though two-year colleges, both actual and predicted salaries tend to be lower, as does the value-added contribution with respect to salaries, Bakersfield College is considered an outstanding institution. Bakersfield’s unmeasured “x factors” account for a much larger share of the school’s value-added, and include, proximity to the energy sector, working for companies like Chevron and Aera Energy, as well as to local school districts.

BC 1


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