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  • Publication
    Estimating the social value of higher education: willingness to pay for community and technical colleges
    (Cambridge University Press, 2014-01) ; ; ;
    Much is known about private financial returns to education in the form of higher earnings. Less is known about how much social value exceeds this private value. Associations between education and socially-desirable outcomes are strong, but disentangling the effect of education from other causal factors is challenging. The purpose of this paper is to estimate the social value of one form of higher education. We elicit willingness to pay for the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) directly and compare our estimate of total social value to our estimates of private value in the form of increased earnings. Our earnings estimates are based on two distinct data sets, one administrative and one from the U.S. Census. The difference between the total social value and the increase in earnings is our measure of the education externality and the private, non-market value combined. Our work differs from previous research by focusing on education at the community college level and by eliciting values directly through a stated-preferences survey in a way that yields a total value including any external benefits. Our preferred estimates indicate the social value of expanding the system exceeds private financial value by at least 25% with a best point estimate of nearly 90% and exceeds total private value by at least 15% with a best point estimate of nearly 60%.
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