The National Research Center for Career and Technical Education (NRCCTE) has released Conducting Return on Investment Analyses for Secondary and Postsecondary CTE: A Framework, a specially commissioned study written by Kevin M. Hollenbeck of the W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. This study extends Hollenbeck’s recent work estimating the rate of return for workforce development programs, including secondary and postsecondary career and technical education (CTE), in Washington state.
CTE’s role in connecting secondary education with workforce development has long been recognized, but CTE evaluation systems have struggled to offer objective evidence to determine how CTE adds value to the U.S. economy. Return on investment (ROI) studies may help the field accomplish this.
In this study, Hollenbeck calculated ROI based on estimates of the net impact of CTE on individuals’ labor market experiences and government income supports after participating in CTE or workforce development programs. He found that participants in CTE programs reaped substantial returns—positive earnings—with almost nil or negative costs for secondary CTE. At the postsecondary level, the economic payoffs of participating in CTE outweighed, even over the short term, any associated participation costs like tuition or foregone earnings.
ROI analyses have been used in recent reports by research and policy organizations like the Center for American Progress and the Alliance for Excellent Education to show how investments in public education pay off in significant returns to the nation’s economy. Because many states and districts that could benefit from ROI analyses may find it difficult to conduct them, the NRCCTE seeks to help them make the strongest case for CTE.