Notes & Sources


This report would not have been possible without the support and hard work of many individuals and organizations. We are particularly grateful to Diane Elliott, Kathleen Little, and Anne Sturtevant for their invaluable assistance. We are also grateful to the researchers who generously gave us permission to cite and reproduce their findings. We appreciate the contributions of Annika Many, Christen Pollock, Tom Rudin, Tara Goldman and Anne Sussman at the College Board. The design and production skills of Laura Horn, John Vavricka and the staff at MPR Associates, together with the staff of KSA-Plus Communications made the publication possible.


Education Pays was authored by Sandy Baum, Jennifer Ma, and Kathleen Payea, independent policy analysts for the College Board.

Contact Information for the Authors

Sandy Baum, [email protected]
Jennifer Ma, [email protected]
Kathleen Payea, [email protected]

Data Definitions

Education Level

The categories describing education level always refer to the highest level of education attained, unless otherwise specified. For example, the term high school graduate is used to describe those who graduated from high school but have no college experience.

Not a high school graduate

Some data sources divide non-high school graduates into "less than ninth grade" and "ninth through twelfth grades." In these cases, we use a weighted average based on the relative sizes of the two groups to generate the data for all individuals with less than a high school diploma.

High school graduates

Includes recipients of the General Educational Development (GED) diploma.

Some college

Education categories sometimes include "some college no degree" and "associate degree." In other cases, there is one category for "some college or associate degree." Available data prior to 1992 define educational attainment by years of study, making it impossible to determine which students with 14 years of education, for example, earned an associate degree and which did not.

Professional degrees

Include MD, DDS, DVM, LLB, and JD.

Doctorate-granting institutions

Universities that offer graduate Ph.D. programs, emphasize research, and generally have more selective admission requirements than most four-year colleges that do not offer doctoral programs.

Flagship institutions

These institutions are typically the best-known institutions in the state, were generally the first to be established, and are frequently the largest and most selective, as well as the most research-intensive public universities.

Moving averages

Moving averages are calculated as the average of the identified year and the two preceding years. An alternative methodology would average the specified year with the preceding year and the succeeding year.


All dollar figures have been rounded to the nearest $100.