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Veronica Minaya

Sade Bonilla, Veronica Minaya.

Community colleges are a critical component of the U.S. higher education system, providing access to students from traditionally underserved communities. However, enduring challenges to completion stemming from educational, economic, and social inequities persist. Building on prior work that examines barriers to student success and their relationship to student outcomes, this descriptive study examines the relationship between students’ time utilization, engagement with campus resources, financial and mental well-being, with academic persistence. Specifically, we examine the relative importance of these barriers on students’ educational attainment. We find that the incidence of adverse mental health is comparable to 4-year undergraduate populations. The rates of food and housing insecurity are comparable to previous studies, though strikingly high. While a plurality of respondents engage with multiple campus resources, this engagement is unrelated to their propensity to remain enrolled or complete additional credits. Most notably, mental health conditions were negatively related to persistence and credit accumulation, while the relationship between academic outcomes and measures of food and housing insecurity was smaller and not significant. Our findings suggest that facilitating access to mental health supports is a prominent avenue for supporting student engagement and success.

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Veronica Minaya, Judith Scott-Clayton, Rachel Yang Zhou.

Graduate education is among the fastest growing segments of the U.S. higher educational system. This paper provides up-to-date causal evidence on labor market returns to Master’s degrees and examines heterogeneity in the returns by field area, student demographics and initial labor market conditions. We use rich administrative data from Ohio and an individual fixed effects model that compares students’ earnings trajectories before and after earning a Master’s degree. Findings show that obtaining a Master’s degree increased quarterly earnings by about 12% on average, but the returns vary largely across graduate fields. We also find gender and racial disparities in the returns, with higher average returns for women than for men, and for White than for Black graduates. In addition, by comparing returns among students who graduated before and under the Great Recession, we show that economic downturns appear to reduce but not eliminate the positive returns to Master’s degrees.

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