While community, junior, and technical colleges have always offered some vocational curricula, the number of their offerings has increased and the range of direct linkages with outside organizations has become remarkably wide.
More than two-thirds of two-year institutions offer co-op or work experience, and almost one institution in six offers the classroom component of apprenticeship training. Although nearly nine out of ten two-year schools operate school-based enterprises, the numbers of students involved are tiny--less than a half of a percent. Even co-op and apprenticeship do not enroll very large numbers, accounting for only 2.25 percent and 1.39 percent of the schools' total enrollment, respectively.
Using data from 840 co-op and non-co-op students, Siedenberg (1989) found that co-op students' wages were neither higher nor lower than the non-co-op graduates.
LaGuardia College in New York is the only two-year college in the U.S. where co-op education is mandatory for all full-time students. The program consists of three three-month, full-time co-op assignments. Most of LaGuardia's students who complete their first co-op assignment go on to complete their degree, and roughly two-thirds of its students continue their education beyond the two-year degree (1983 data, Heinemann, 1988). Employer evaluations reflect employer satisfaction and enthusiastic students.
The most positive results were found by Stern, Stone, Hopkins, McMillion, and Cagampang (1992), who used 1989 baseline data from the NCRVE longitudinal survey to compare 228 co-op students in two-year colleges to 375 non-co-op students at the same colleges, all of whom were employed in the same occupational categories. The co-op students see a stronger connection between their current job and their expected career, report more opportunity for learning in their current jobs, express more interest in their current jobs, and see a closer connection between school and work. The differences were substantial. For example, nearly two-thirds of the co-op students saw a close connection between school and their current job, but less than half of the non-co-op students saw a close connection. Whether these qualitative differences in students' work experiences contribute to subsequent educational or economic outcomes is not yet known.
To meet the demand for auto repair mechanics, most major American and Japanese manufacturers have forged links with their local auto dealers, the dealers' trade associations, and community colleges. General Motors operates over 500 apprenticeship programs involving two-year colleges (Cantor, 1991).
Apprentices in the program generally work full-time for a period of months and then study full-time for another period of months. In GM's Automotive Services Excellence Program, apprentices participate in a six-part cycle consisting of five to eight weeks of full-time school followed by five to eight weeks on the job. Apprentices work an eight-hour day in both cycles (Casner-Lotto, 1988). In other programs, apprentices put in classroom time after work. In a Pennsylvania machine technology program, for example, trainees spend two nights each week at a community college during their apprenticeship (Whitworth, 1982).
Most apprenticeship programs linked to two-year colleges allow trainees to earn a certificate of completion for the apprenticeship as well as an associate's degree from the college. The classroom component usually consists of both general and technical courses. The U.S. Navy's shipyard program, for example, consists of courses in expository writing, technical writing, arithmetic, chemistry, physics, a social science elective, drafting, and blueprint reading (Cantor, 1988). Rancho Santiago Community College's offerings on behalf of the Santa Ana fire department consist of eight core courses that are prerequisite for fire fighter certification. These same classes also provide 24 units toward an associate's degree in Fire Science Technology (Cantor, 1992).
Trainees normally pay the standard college tuition for their courses, and buy their own books and tools. The sponsoring organization supplies equipment, uniforms, and wages for on-the-job phases of the training. The college provides instructors, classrooms, and administrative expenses. Many training programs are more extensively supported by the sponsor. Chrysler provides for its trainees a $1,500 grant toward educational costs, a salary of 160 percent of the sponsoring dealership's minimum wage during both phases of the training, and a $.50 per hour raise after each semester. In addition, Chrysler places $1.00 in escrow for every hour worked and studied by the trainee, and awards the entire amount to the trainee upon completion of the program, at which time he or she is guaranteed two years of full-time employment (Cantor, 1991) .
The selection process for these programs is often quite rigorous, as applications can far outnumber available places. One program, sponsored by The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local #3, receives 2,000 to 4,000 applicants annually for its 700 apprenticeship positions (Cantor, 1991). Sponsors use interviews and ability tests as well as high school transcripts in the selection process.
The measurement difficulties are daunting. Choices that individuals make--for example, whether to enter a postsecondary institution, what kind, which one, which fields to study, whether to hold a paid job while in school--are very likely affected by unmeasured personal factors that also affect subsequent economic success. Even random-assignment experiments, which are designed to eliminate the influence of unmeasured variables, can create problems that affect the evaluation. For instance, the disappointment felt by individuals who are turned away from a program can have a discouraging effect on their behavior and, consequently, on their chances for success.
The measurement issue has further complications. Since many young people drift from job to job while dropping in and out of postsecondary education, an actual work experience may be the precipitating factor in forming a stable attachment to a line of work or a particular employer. Having first identified desirable work, the young person returns to or starts school to fill in missing qualifications or become eligible for advancement. Clearly, for many students, work experience and schooling jointly affect subsequent career success, which in turn makes it difficult to measure the effect of the schooling itself. And, of course, employment during college and subsequent success in the labor market might both result from the student's ability or ambition.
However, work during college has been found to be positively associated with earnings a few years later, even allowing for such personal factors as students' ability or ambition (San, 1986). Although some evidence indicates that working while in college increases the probability of dropping out (Kohen, Nestel, & Karmas, 1978; Ehrenberg & Sherman, 1987), this effect is smaller if students are working on campus (Astin, 1975; Ehrenberg & Sherman, 1987).
These earnings differentials may reflect prior differences between recipients of associate's degrees and high school graduates rather than the effect of the additional schooling. Individuals who obtain associate's degrees tend to come from more educated or affluent families than those who complete high school only, and they possess more of certain abilities that lead to both higher educational attainment and higher earnings. It is necessary to account for these and other factors.
Such accounting is now possible with detailed data from longitudinal datasets such as the High School and Beyond (HSB) survey and the National Longitudinal Study of the High School Class of 1972 (NLS72). The HSB seniors in 1980 were resurveyed in 1986, when most of them were around the age of 24. The NLS72 group was also re-surveyed in 1986, when most of them were around the age of 32.
As expected, all estimates of earnings differences, when controlled for ability, work experience, and demographic characteristics, are less than the simple, uncontrolled differences observed in the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) and CPS data. Horn (1989) found that those who complete a two-year vocational program earn roughly $3,000 a year more than those who complete high school only. But Hollenbeck (1992) found the difference to be about $1,800, and Lyke, Gabe, and Aleman (1991) found an insignificant difference between community college and high school graduates. Grubb (1992, 1993) found that a vocational associate's degree increases earnings by about $3,000 a year for females but does not contribute much to additional earnings for males. Looking at associate's degrees in nonvocational fields, Grubb (1992, 1993) and Kane and Rouse (1992) found little or no gain in earnings for men or women, except for those with associate's degrees in math or science.
Since most students who enter two-year colleges do not complete associate's degrees, it is important to estimate the payoff from taking courses and not finishing the degree. Again, estimates vary. Hollenbeck (1992) found increased earnings for noncompleters in the HSB data, and Kane and Rouse (1992) found increased earnings for noncompleters in the NLS72 data. But Grubb (1993) found few effects for noncompleters. The authors of the NCRVE report find it difficult to know what to make of these divergent results. Grubb warns that the variety of programs and local circumstances make it hazardous to generalize about effects.
Looking at a somewhat older group, Grubb (1991) and Kane and Rouse (1992) found an earnings gain of $1,000 to $2,000 for proprietary school graduates. For noncompleters, Grubb (1991) found no significant increase in earnings.
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