Predictors of Bachelor's Degree Completion and the Returns to College Student Employment: An Application of Propensity Score Matching

Thumbnail Image
Publication or External Link
Medellin, Richard Jay
Titus, Marvin A.
Drawing from Bean's (1990) student attrition model and human capital theory (Becker, 1993; Mincer, 1974), this study examined the relationships between college student employment, bachelor's degree completion, and post-college salary outcomes. Using NCES Beginning Postsecondary Student Longitudinal Study (BPS:04/09) data, the investigation was conducted in separate analytic phases involving logistic regression, propensity score matching, and fixed-effects regression techniques. The application of propensity score matching addressed the selection bias present in prior studies to refine the current understanding of the returns to college student employment. The phase one results indicate many variables included in the analysis were associated with degree completion; most notably among them are the distance students live from campus, students' level of college engagement, their college academic performance, and work activities during college. The results suggest that living on-campus, active engagement in clubs, study groups, and interaction with faculty are positively associated with degree completion. The results also indicate that working during college, up to 20 hours per week, is positively related to degree completion. Conversely, working in excess of 30 hours per week is negatively associated with completing a college degree. The phase two results indicate several variables were associated with college students' future salaries, and include students' work activities during college, their institution's admissions selectivity, college degree major, and the relationship student's degree major has with their post-college job. The results indicate that working in excess of 30 hours per week while in college is positively associated with students' future earnings. The results also indicate that attending institutions with higher levels of admissions selectivity is positively related with post-college earnings. Student degree major and the relationship of students' college majors to their future jobs were also positively related to their post-college salary. The results reveal college students' participation in higher education and their work activities are not entirely antithetical. This study illustrates that under certain conditions, working during college may be supportive of students' educational pursuits and financially beneficial to students' post-college careers. This conclusion has important implications for academic advising and college career center practices and improves our knowledge pertaining to the working college student.