Sometimes a Community College Degree Is Actually Worthless

This perhaps shouldn’t come as much of a surprise at this point, but now it’s official: there are some college degrees that don’t improve earnings whatsoever.

At least as far as community colleges go, some degrees just really aren’t worth it. According to an article at the Hechinger Report:

The research, conducted under the aegis of the Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment and focused on community colleges, confirms the widely accepted belief that many graduates make more than people without degrees.

But it also found that the large proportion of community-college students who major in the liberal arts, humanities, and general studies and have not gone on to earn bachelor’s degrees receive little or no financial advantage at all in exchange for their time and tuition.

Researchers speculated that students at community colleges may end up in the liberal arts because there’s not enough room in nursing or technical programs, or because they’re not aware of the earnings implications.

This doesn’t mean that getting an associate degree in the humanities or general studies is a straight-up awful idea. Indeed, for someone who goes on to earn a bachelor’s degree in English or political science it makes a good deal of financial sense to do the general studies degree at a community college.

But just earning an associate in the humanities, that doesn’t really help much at all. What sort of job is that good for?

Certificate

Perhaps more interesting, however, is that even many of the “practical” courses of study don’t seem to improve earnings much.

It seems that recipients of many community colleges’ “newly trendy professional certificates,” in things like healthcare technology management, counterintelligence, criminal justice, border security, financial regulatory compliance also don’t earn any more than they would have if they just didn’t bother.

While those professional certificates certainly sound practical, it appears the sort of people who hire for jobs in counterintelligence or border security don’t seem all that impressed by a few courses the local community college slapped together. A certificate in counterintelligence doesn’t equal expertise in counterintelligence, after all.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer