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Follow-up on North Carolina community college cooperative education graduates: Additional education and salary gains (Johnson 2000)

Absence of conflict of interest.

Citation

Johnson, L. R. (2000). Follow-up on North Carolina community college cooperative education graduates: Additional education and salary gains (Unpublished doctoral dissertation.). North Carolina State University.

Highlights

  • The study's objective was to examine the impact of cooperative education on education, earnings, and employment outcomes.
  • The study used a nonexperimental design to compare the outcomes of graduates of a cooperative education program, graduates who did not participate in a cooperative education program that was offered at their college, and graduates who attended a school in which cooperative education was not offered. Using survey data, the author conducted statistical tests to examine the differences between the three groups 10 years after they graduated.
  • The study found no statistically significant relationship between graduating from a cooperative education program and pursuing additional education, employment status, or earning a higher salary.
  • The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the author did not ensure that the groups being compared were similar before the intervention. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to cooperative education; other factors are likely to have contributed.

Intervention Examined

Cooperative Education

Features of the Intervention

Cooperative education was started by Herman Schneider in the early 1900s to blend classroom instruction with on-the-job experience in a related field. The author described the components of cooperative education programs in general, but did not describe the programs offered through the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS). The NCCCS is comprised of 58 colleges, 22 of which had a cooperative education program.

Features of the Study

The study used a nonexperimental design to compare the outcomes of graduates who participated in cooperative education to graduates who did not. The initial study on which this one was based started with 1986-1987 graduates randomly selected from 11 colleges with a cooperative education program and 11 colleges without such a program. The colleges were initially matched on size, program offerings, location, urban or rural location, and county-level employment rates and weekly wages. The focus was on students earning an associate degree in applied science, omitting nursing and other health-related degrees including radiology, phlebotomy, and medical technology. Graduates were randomly selected after three groups were created: 1) graduates of a cooperative education program, 2) graduates who did not participate in a cooperative education program but could have because it was offered at their college, and 3) graduates who attended a school in which cooperative education was not offered. Graduates in group three served as the comparison group.

The sample for this study included 1,323 graduates from the NCCCS who last completed a telephone follow-up survey in 1995. All graduates were mailed a card to confirm their address. Surveys were then mailed to 674 graduates based on confirmed addresses. Of these, 259 were returned (38.4%) and 241 were analyzed (18 surveys were unusable according to the author). The final analytic sample included 58 percent women and was 87 percent white; almost half (49%) were 31 to 50 years of age. Of the 241 analyzed surveys, 26 percent were in group one, 37 percent were in group two, and 37 percent were in group three. The author conducted chi-square analyses to examine differences between the groups on four outcomes (enrollment in additional education, completion of a bachelor’s degree, earnings, and employment status) 10 years after they graduated.

Findings

Education and skills gain

  • The study did not find a statistically significant relationship between participation in cooperative education and completion of a bachelor's degree.
  • The study did not find a statistically significant relationship between participation in cooperative education and current enrollment in additional education.

Earnings and wages

  • The study did not find a statistically significant relationship between participation in cooperative education and earning a higher salary.

Employment

  • The study did not find a statistically significant relationship between participation in cooperative education and employment status.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The author did not account for preexisting differences between the treatment and comparison groups before program participation, such as age, race/ethnicity, gender, a pre-intervention measure of financial disadvantage, or a pre-intervention measure of earnings and employment. These preexisting differences between the groups—and not participation in cooperative education—could explain the observed outcomes. Therefore, the study is not eligible for a moderate causal evidence rating, the highest rating available for nonexperimental designs.

Causal Evidence Rating

The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the author did not ensure that the groups being compared were similar before the intervention. This means we are not confident that any estimated effects are attributable to cooperative education; other factors are likely to have contributed.

Reviewed by CLEAR

January 2021

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