Published on May 1, 2023

Ensuring Students Attain Credentials of Value

We want more Texans to attain postsecondary credentials that set them up for successful careers with manageable or no debt. These credentials of value reflect the economic return of pursuing higher education in our state.

Our goal for Building a Talent Strong Texas

  • 550,000 students completing postsecondary credentials of value at in-state public institutions each year

Texas places a new and unique focus on value

Texas is raising the bar for its education goals. In addition to tracking how many Texans ​​attain postsecondary credentials, we’re looking at whether their credentials will truly pay off for them in the future. 

In other words, are people financially better off with this credential than they would be with a high school diploma? 

Answering this question requires a careful and complete account of the economic costs and benefits of postsecondary credentials. It also makes Texas the first state in the nation to condition its completion goals directly to the wages associated with postsecondary credentials.  

What is a “credential of value”?

Broadly speaking, credentials of value are quality, affordable credentials that: 

  • equip recipients for strong career trajectories;
  • improve their earnings opportunities; and
  • align with high-demand jobs offered by Texas employers.

Specifically, credentials of value must meet a certain cost-benefit threshold:  

  • A typical student with that credential must earn enough within 10 years to pay for the cost of their education and surpass the earnings of a typical high school graduate.

All areas of study meet the threshold but by different margins.

The chart below shows how graduates from 16 nationally recognized program categories fare within 10 years. All categories we evaluated meet the minimum value threshold (MVT) to be considered a credential of value.  

However, some areas of study provide value more reliably than others. For example, 96% of students with bachelor’s degrees in the category of Architecture and Engineering meet the MVT. That’s more than 10 points higher than categories like Social Sciences (85%) and Psychology (82%). 

The financial picture changes somewhat when we look at certificates and associate degrees. Social Sciences ranks higher in this context than it does for bachelor’s degrees, but with lower percentages (79% for associates, 76% for certificates). Associates degrees and certificates in education crosses the MVT by the lowest margin. Less than 60% of students who attain associate degrees or certificates in Education end up earning enough for their credential to pay off financially. 

Men are slightly more likely than women to receive financial benefit from credentials.

Based on the data, we find that credentials do not pay off equally for men and women. Across races and ethnicities, the percentage of men with bachelor’s degrees who meet the MVT is slightly higher than that of women. 

African American/Black men and women are most equivalent, with only 1 percentage point separating them (90% for men, 89% for women). For Hispanic, White, and Asian American students, the difference between men and women ranges from 3 to 4 percentage points.  

Several factors may contribute to the gaps between men and women. For example, categories that provide financial value to the greatest share of students — like Architecture and Engineering and others near the top of the charts above — may enroll more men than women.  

We are committed at the Coordinating Board to taking a deeper dive to unpack these data in partnership with institutions.