PhotoYou read it everywhere: advice to prospective college students that they look first to public community colleges rather than for-profit schools, which can be five times as expensive.

Now a study by researchers at the University of Missouri finds that hiring managers show no preference for hiring people with for-profit college credentials compared to those holding comparable credentials from public community colleges.

"Tuition at for-profit colleges can be as much as five times higher than at two-year community colleges," said lead researcher Cory Koedel. "When people are weighing their higher-education options, tuition cost and the ability to gain employment after school should be considered heavily. This study shows that no significant difference exists with respect to generating employer interest between individuals with community college and for-profit degrees. For many people, community college may be the better option financially."

Random résumés

For their study, Koedel, Rajeev Darolia, an assistant professor in the MU Truman School of Public Affairs, and their co-authors, randomly generated thousands of résumés that included either a for-profit college credential, a two-year community college credential, or only a high school diploma. The researchers then sent the résumés to a number of job openings for open positions in fields including sales, customer service, information technology, medical assistance and office, and administrative assistance. T

They found that hiring managers called back to inquire about fake candidates at the same rate, regardless of whether the candidates held community college or for-profit credentials.

"It is clear that employers are not placing any kind of higher value on for-profit credentials relative to community college credentials," Koedel said. "While for-profit colleges may be a good solution for some people, they are expensive, and our study indicates that there are other, more cost-effective education options that are perceived similarly by employers."

This study was published in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

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