Data: better payoff for public college career programs

WASHINGTON (AP) — Graduates of career training programs at public colleges tend to land better paying jobs than those who attended for-profit schools, according to government data released Thursday.

The Education Department data show average earnings of those with certificates from public schools were nearly $9,000 higher than those with for-profit certificate programs.

The report also found nearly a third of for-profit students graduated from programs with median earnings below the federal minimum wage, which now stands at $7.25 an hour. That’s compared with only 14 percent in the public sector.

“College is the best investment a person can make in their long-term future,” Education Secretary John B. King Jr. said as the report was released. The earnings information “is an important thing for students to pay attention to as they decide what programs to pursue and where to pursue them.”

About 1.3 million students are enrolled in career college programs in a variety of fields from nursing, welding, and culinary arts to certificate programs for auto mechanics, pharmacy technicians and dental assistants.

Community colleges in particular, the report said, offered programs that outperformed similar programs at for-profit schools.

The report said certificate programs at public undergraduate schools usually had more students enrolled in high-earning fields, such as nursing.

Graduates of those public programs also tended to have higher incomes than grads in the same fields of study at for-profits. That was true for most of the 14 fields of study examined. A few, including culinary arts and cosmetology, had better average earnings at for-profit schools.  The report didn’t address why that is.

The report looked at career programs at about 3,700 public and for-profit schools that are covered by the “gainful employment” regulations that went into effect last year soon after the troubled for-profit giant Corinthian Colleges filed for bankruptcy protection.