The State of American Higher Education Outcomes in 2023

Is the US higher education system providing a baseline level of quality for college students? To answer that question, Third Way has been regularly examining institutional outcomes in three key areas: completion, post-enrollment earnings, and student loan repayment. These metrics are informative in their own right, and they are also closely intertwined. Leaving college with a credential in hand is needed to fully unlock the financial and personal benefits associated with higher education, and graduation is a major indicator of future success—college graduates earn more than $1 million more over the course of their lifetime, while those who do not complete are three times more likely to default on their student loans. This report unpacks each of these critical outcomes at over 5,000 institutions of higher education and breaks down the data points by predominant degree awarded and sector, allowing for side-by-side examination of trends in multiple student success metrics across certificate programs and two- and four-year degrees at public, private non-profit, and for-profit institutions in the US.

Policymakers must prioritize strengthening student outcomes across federally-funded higher education institutions to ensure that the US remains globally competitive, that taxpayer dollars are wielded responsibly, and that students are prepared to enter a changing workforce.

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