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Benefits to Individuals and Society: Recommendations

Accurate, current estimates of the return that accrues to people who acquire higher education degrees need to be developed. These estimates should be segmented by chosen degree, by major, and by individual characteristics such as ethnic background and gender. The U.S. Census Bureau is a source of earnings data that can be crosstabulated by other characteristics.

The Census Bureau figures can be augmented with detailed survey data from university alumni. The survey should include questions on location, earnings, industry, occupation, and a variety of other characteristics.

Together, the Census Bureau and alumni data can provide estimates of the return on human capital that accrue to graduates as well as the location of graduates. While the individuals who earn degrees and the businesses that hire them are directly responsible for their earnings stream, it seems reasonable that the university can claim responsibility for a portion of the net benefits that accrue.