Study: Harper grads earn $650K more after degree or certificate

Harper College graduates earn $650,000 more in the course of their careers than those who did not attend college, according to a new report from the Illinois Community College Board.

That was just one of the findings in the ICCB’s study of Illinois’ 48 community colleges, which account for $3.5 billion in economic output and more than 43,000 jobs. The report is a valuable assessment tool for the country’s third largest community college system as it continues to strive to increase value and access for all Illinoisans.

“Community colleges are powerful, equity-oriented economic engines and a sound investment for students and taxpayers,” said Dr. Avis Proctor, president of Harper College. “As our community’s college, Harper College improves lives and the economic vitality of our region by providing high-quality education, responding to current needs, and preparing for tomorrow’s challenges and opportunities. We are nimble solution providers and continue to engage with employers to address critical workforce shortages and build talent pipelines.”

The report’s earnings outlook for all Harper students was uniformly strong:

  • Over the course of a 40-year career, increased earnings for a degree completer total $651,984 (compared to someone not attending college), resulting in an annual internal rate of return of 26.8%.
  • Those with an Associate in Applied Sciences or long-term certificate from Harper made a median annual salary of $56,382 a decade after completion.
  • Associate degree earners who transferred to a four-year institution had median annual earnings of $52,704 a decade after graduating from Harper.
  • The earnings of short-term credential earners varied by field, with median annual salaries ranging between $43,268 and $53,434 three years after completion. Programs with the highest earnings include HVAC maintenance, business operations support and allied health professions.

The study also found high rates of employment for graduates in solid paying career jobs, based on 2010-18 data:

  • An average of 85% of Harper graduates who completed an Associate in Applied Sciences degree or a long-term certificate were employed in career jobs within a year of completion.
  • 90.5% of all Harper graduates were employed in career jobs within a decade.
  • Career job employment rates remained strong across all age ranges and races – with the highest rates among Latinx (90.4%) and African American graduates (88.2%).

The ICCB report also highlighted Harper’s partnerships with employers and role as a driver of the local economy:

  • In 2019, 1,475 employers were served by credit or noncredit programs at the college.
  • Harper’s total operations were associated with $214.7 million in economic output.

The ICCB report, last issued in 2014, evaluates Illinois’ community college system on its ability to meet the needs of business and industry, equity, student outcomes, students’ return on investment, and the system’s overall economic impacts on local economies and job growth. The report also examines statewide trends including employment, population, race and ethnicity changes, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is clear that community colleges remain a solid return on investment for local communities and the students that use them,” said ICCB Executive Director Brian Durham. “Our system continues to play a vital role in meeting the needs of Illinois’ workforce by providing quality training and education and by giving students an opportunity to earn higher wages in countless industries throughout the state.”

Last Updated: 10/13/21