New analysis finds significant gaps in median earnings for graduates of New York State postsecondary institutions across institutions and fields of study

by | Apr 13, 2021 | Press Release

 REACH NY network of civil rights, student-serving, veteran, and education organizations calls for additional support to students attending institutions with lower median earnings

NEW YORK – A new analysis of the U.S. Department of Education College Scorecard dataset found that despite requiring equivalent investments of time, institutions and fields of study can lead to significant gaps in median earnings and that median earnings are higher at institutions that serve the smallest shares of Pell-eligible students and American Indian, Black, and Latinx students than at institutions that serve the largest shares.

At the associate degree level, the highest median earnings were more than five times greater than the lowest median earnings. In addition, half of the median earnings for associate degrees were less than $28,000, or approximately only $2,000 above the 2019 Federal Poverty Line for a family of four.

Even greater inequities were seen across fields of study for bachelor’s degrees, with the highest median earnings being more than nine times greater than the lowest median earnings.

The Scorecard data findings highlight the need to provide additional academic and career support to students attending institutions with lower median earnings and to improve access — especially access for Pell eligible and American Indian, Black, and Latinx students — to institutions with higher median earnings.

Among the key findings of the analysis:

  • Fields of study can act as gatekeepers to family-sustaining earnings. Despite equivalent investments of time, some fields of study can have a significantly larger return on investment for students than others.
  • Even within the same fields of study, there are inequities in earnings across institutions. Even when students are pursuing the same field of study, enrollment in specific institutions may result in higher earnings. These inequities are highlighted when comparing the lowest median earnings and highest median earnings for the same field of study across institutions.
  • Median earnings are higher at institutions that serve the smallest shares of Pell-eligible students and American Indian, Black, and Latinx students than at institutions that serve the largest shares.

In order to ensure New York residents are prepared to meet the labor demands of the future and achieve more equitable postsecondary outcomes, including family-sustaining earnings, New York State should pursue an ambitious postsecondary equity agenda that includes:

  • Adopting a statewide attainment goal of 60% that would apply to all regions and to New York residents of all races and ethnicities.
  • Creating a statewide early childhood-to-workforce data system to support institutions in identifying and addressing equity gaps in the educational pipeline and assess the ongoing impact of the pandemic on the education-to-workforce transition.
  • Strengthening consumer protection and protecting borrowers by providing oversight and improving program approval processes for schools that receive funds from federal and state aid programs.

In addition, postsecondary institutions can take these steps to ensure that students are well prepared and supported for workforce transitions:

  • Institutions of higher education should collaborate with industry partners in fields that pay a family-sustaining wage to ensure program offerings and skill development are aligned with current and future workforce demands.
  • Institutions should also integrate opportunities for career exposure and development by increasing academic and career advising, facilitating internship opportunities, and offering other critical supports to prepare students for the workforce.

“An ambitious attainment goal is just the first step to putting all New Yorkers on the path to earning a family-sustaining income and meeting their full potential,” said Dia Bryant, interim executive director of The Education Trust–New York. “It is crucial that New York State focus on the pipeline from postsecondary completion to workforce , with an eye toward ensuring more equitable earning outcomes for all graduates of our higher education system, especially for those who have been historically disadvantaged.”

“Inequitable systems and institutional practices are holding our Black, Indigenous, people of color and underprivileged students back from career opportunities with higher earning potential,” said Melodie Baker, national policy director at Just Equations. “The postsecondary pipeline to STEM fields is still riddled with unequal access to quality math courses, one-size-fits-all Algebra sequences, and stereotype threats that target Black and Latinx students. Stabilizing our economy and creating family-sustaining careers for the 21st Century will require rethinking and redesigning more equitable postsecondary pathways for all students.”

“NYSACAC supports a state college completion attainment goal and clear pathways to degree completion for transfer students,” said Marissa Guijarro, president of the New York State Association for College Admission Counseling. “Postsecondary education with a focus on ensuring graduates can earn a family-sustaining wage ensures viable workplace options and a quality of life for all New Yorkers.”

“During the pandemic, workers without a college credential have experienced the most job and income loss in New York City, underscoring the need to make college more accessible to working-class New Yorkers,” said Marissa Muñoz, Northeast Regional Director for Young Invincibles. “But as this new analysis from REACH NY shows, a degree alone is not a guarantee for economic stability. New York needs to invest in academic and career counseling that can put students on a path towards economic stability — and prioritize investment in schools that serve more students of color and Pell-eligible students.”

Read the full report at

About the REACH NY network

Raising Equity & Attainment in College Higher (REACH NY) is a postsecondary equity policy and advocacy network with a steering committee made up of Buffalo Center for Arts and Technology, DegreesNYC, The Education Trust–New York, Hispanic Federation, Ibero-American Action League, New York Urban League, New York State Association for College Admissions Counseling, Say Yes to Education–Buffalo, Veterans Education Success, and Young Invincibles.