Empirical Analysis of Return to Distance Higher Education in Different Disciplines
Few empirical studies have analyzed the return to distance higher education in different academic disciplines. This study used quantitative methods, data from a nationwide survey, and Mincerian earnings function to analyze the return to distance higher education among different disciplines in China’s labor market. Results were compared with the return to face-to-face higher education and showed that the returns to face-to-face higher education were higher than those to distance higher education. Returns to the disciplines of economics and management were at a high level in both face-to-face and distance education; returns to the disciplines of literature, as well as education and law, were at a low level in both face-to-face and distance education. The returns to the disciplines of science and engineering were higher in face-to-face education than in distance education. This paper proposes several recommendations. Adults who do not have higher education degrees should invest in distance higher education to obtain considerable monetary returns, particularly in the disciplines with higher returns such as management and economics. China’s distance education institutions should improve the quality of teaching in science and engineering education and find ways to provide high-quality experimental teaching practices. At the same time, they should scale back on instruction of literature, as well as education and law.
Abel, J. R., & Deitz, R. (2014). Do the benefits of college still outweigh the costs? Current Issues in Economics and Finance, 20(3), 1–11. https://www.newyorkfed.org/medialibrary/media/research/current_issues/ci20-3.pdf
Altonji, J. G. (1993). The demand for and return to education when education outcomes are uncertain. Journal of Labor Economics, 11(1), 48–83. https://doi.org/10.1086/298317
Angle, J., & Wissmann, D. A. (1981). Gender, college major, and earnings. Sociology of Education, 54(1), 25–33. https://doi.org/10.2307/2112510
Barney, J. B. (1991). Firm resource and sustained competitive advantage. Journal of Management, 17(1), 99–120. https://doi.org/10.1177/014920639101700108
Becker, G. S. (1964). Human capital: A theoretical and empirical analysis, with special reference to education. Columbia University Press.
Bell, C. M. (2010). Graduate education attainment and salary: An examination of institutional type, major choice, gender, race/ethnicity, parental education and work experience differences (Publication No. ED519348) [Doctoral dissertation, Ohio University]. https://etd.ohiolink.edu/!etd.send_file?accession=ohiou1273520207&disposition=inline
Bottomley, A., & Dunworth, J. (1974). Rate of return analysis and economies of scale in higher education. Socio-Economic Planning Sciences, 8(5), 273–280. https://doi.org/10.1016/0038-0121(74)90012-3
Carnoy, M. (1995). Rates of return to education. In M. Carnoy (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of the Economics of Education (pp. 364–369). Elsevier Science Ltd.
Carnoy, M., Rabling, B. J., Castaño‐Muñoz, J., Montoliu, J. M. D., & Sancho‐Vinuesa, T. (2012). Does on‐line distance higher education pay off for adult learners? The case of the Open University of Catalonia. Higher Education Quarterly, 66(3), 248–271. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2273.2012.00520.x
Castaño-Muñoz, J., Carnoy, M., & Duart, J. M. (2016). Estimating the economic payoff to virtual university education: A case study of the Open University of Catalonia. Higher Education, 72(1), 1–24. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-015-9935-1
Chen, X., Chen, L., & Xia, C. (2003). Rates of return to schooling in urban China: Changes in the 1990s. Peking University Education Review, 2, 65–72. https://www.cnki.net/kcms/doi/10.19355/j.cnki.1671-9468.2003.02.011.html
Cooper, J., & Davis, L. (2017). Exploring comparative economic theories: Human capital formation theory vs. screening theory. Journal of Applied Business and Economics, 19(6). https://articlegateway.com/index.php/JABE/article/view/732
Del Rossi, A. F., & Hersch, J. (2008). Double your major, double your return? Economics of Education Review, 27(4), 375–386. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.econedurev.2007.03.001
Ding, X., Yu, H., & Yu, Q. (2012). Private returns to different education levels in urban China: 2002–2009. Peking University Education Review, 3, 73–84. https://www.cnki.net/kcms/doi/10.19355/j.cnki.1671-9468.2012.03.008.html
Feisel, L. D., & Rosa, A. J. (2005). The role of the laboratory in undergraduate engineering education. Journal of Engineering Education, 94(1), 121–130. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2168-9830.2005.tb00833.x
Gillies, D. (2017). Human capital theory in education. Encyclopedia of educational philosophy and theory (pp. 1–5). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-287-532-7_254-1
Glocker, D., & Storck, J. (2014). Risks and returns to educational fields–A financial asset approach to vocational and academic education. Economics of Education Review, 42, 109–129. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.econedurev.2014.06.004
Heckman, J. J., Lochner, L. J., & Todd, P. E. (2006). Earnings functions, rates of return and treatment effects: The Mincer equation and beyond. In E. A. Hanushek, S. J. Machin, & L. Woessmann (Eds.), Handbook of the economics of education (pp. 307–458). Elsevier. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1574-0692(06)01007-5
Hoxby, C. M. (2014). The economics of online postsecondary education: MOOCs, nonselective education, and highly selective education. American Economic Review, 104(5), 528–533. http://dx.doi.org/10.1257/aer.104.5.528
Huang, B., Tang, J., & Hao, T. (2017). The development of professional degree postgraduate education in China. China Higher Education, 2, 18–24.
Hulten, C. R. (2018). The Importance of Education and Skill Development for Economic Growth in the Information Era. In: Hulten C. R., & Ramey, V. A. (Eds.), Education, skills, and technical change: Implications for future US GDP growth (pp.115-146). Chicago, USA: University of Chicago Press.
Johnes, G., Johnes, J., & López-Torres, L. (2017). Human capital and returns to education. In G. Johnes, J. Johnes, T. Agasisti, & L. López-Torres (Eds.), Handbook of contemporary education economics (pp. 1–20). Edward Elgar Publishing. https://www.elgaronline.com/view/edcoll/9781785369063/9781785369063.xml
Koch, J. V. (1972). Student choice of undergraduate major field of study and private internal rates of return. Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 26(1), 680–685. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/001979397202600106
ISSS, Peking University. (2013). Introduction of CFPS. http://www.isss.pku.edu.cn/cfps/en/index.htm?CSRFT=9OAW-DUVP-I5WW-JFGK-XEZH-JRL2-S420-1OLY
Lemckert, C., & Florance, J. (2002). Real-Time Internet mediated laboratory experiments for distance education students. British Journal of Educational Technology, 33(1), 99–102. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8535.00243
Lemieux, T. (2014). Occupations, fields of study and returns to education. Canadian Journal of Economics/Revue canadienne d’économique, 47(4), 1047–1077. https://doi.org/10.1111/caje.12116
Li, D. (2017). The comparison of regional disparity of returns to education in China-An empirical study based on CHIP data [Unpublished master’s thesis]. Dongbei University of Finance Economics.
Li, F. L. (2017). The economics of distance education. In G. Johnes, J. Johnes T. Agasisti, & J. López-Torres (Eds.), Handbook of contemporary education economics (pp. 381–397). Edward Elgar Publishing.
Li, F. L. (2018). The expansion of higher education and the returns to distance education in china. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 19(4), 242–256.
Li, F. L., Li, Y. Y., & Zhang, S. G. (2015). The effect of distance higher education on the individual income: from the perspective of rural-urban difference and gender difference. e-Education Research, 2015(7), 49–54.
McRae, J. A. (2019). Estimating the financial return to education between fields of study. SURG Journal, 11. https://doi.org/10.21083/surg.v11i0.5354
Mertens, A., & Röbken, H. (2013). Does a doctoral degree pay off? An empirical analysis of rates of return of German doctorate holders. Higher Education, 66(2), 217–231. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-012-9600-x
Mincer, J. (1974). Schooling, experience and earnings. Columbia University Press.
Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China. (2012). Some opinions of the Ministry of Education on how to comprehensively improve the quality of higher education. http://www.moe.gov.cn/srcsite/A08/s7056/201203/t20120316_146673.html
National Bureau of Statistics of China. (2018). Annual data (2018). https://data.stats.gov.cn/english/easyquery.htm?cn=C01.
Psacharopoulos, G., & Patrinos, H. A. (2004). Returns to investment in education: A further update. Education Economics, 12(2), 111–134. https://doi.org/10.1080/0964529042000239140
Pullen, J. M. (2001, February). Applicability of Internet video in distance education for engineering [Paper presentation]. Frontiers in Education Conference, Reno, USA. https://doi.org/10.1109/FIE.2001.963893
Rudas, J., & Horváth, L. (2004). Course model based distance higher education of engineering modeling. WSEAS Transactions on Advances in Engineering Education, 1(1), 67–72.
Romele, L. (2014). Estimation of rates of return to investments in education in Latvia. Regional Formation and Development Studies, 11(3), 146–151. https://doi.org/10.15181/rfds.v11i3.623
Rumberger, R. (1984). The changing economic benefits of college graduates. Economics of Education Review, 3(1), 3–11. https://doi.org/10.1016/0272-7757(84)90003-7
Rumberger, R., & Thomas, S. (1993). The economic returns to college quality, major, and performance: A multilevel analysis of recent graduates. Economics of Education Review, 12(1), 1–19. https://doi.org/10.1016/0272-7757(93)90040-N
Saha, B., & Sensarma, R. (2011). Academic specialisation and returns to education: Evidence from India. Journal of Education and Work, 24(5), 501–520. https://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13639080.2011.573775
Salas-Velasco, M. (2006). Private returns to a university education: An instrumental variables approach. Higher Education, 51(3), 411–438. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-004-6413-6
Schultz, T. W. (1961). Investment in human capital. American Economic Review, 51(1), 1–17.
Siphambe, H. K. (2000). Rates of return to education in Botswana. Economics of Education Review, 19(3), 291–300. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0272-7757(99)00042-4
Soysal, O. A. (2000). Computer integrated experimentation in electrical engineering education over distance. https://peer.asee.org/computer-integrated-experimentation-in-electrical-engineering-education-over-distance.pdf
Spence, M. (1973). Job market signaling. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 87(3), 355–374. https://doi.org/10.2307/1882010
Stella, A., & Gnanam, A. (2004). Quality assurance in distance education: The challenges to be addressed. Higher Education, 47(2), 143–160. https://doi.org/10.1023/B:HIGH.0000016420.17251.5c
Striegel, A. (2001). Distance education and its impact on computer engineering laboratories. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/2493514. http://doi.ieeecomputersociety.org/10.1109/FIE.2001.963707
Thomas, S. L. (2000). Deferred costs and economic returns to college major, quality, and performance. Research in Higher Education, 41(3), 281–313. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1007003510102
Wang, G. G., & Holton, E. F., III. (2005). Neoclassical and institutional economics as foundations for human resource development theory. Human Resource Development Review, 4(1), 86–108. https://doi.org/10.1177/1534484304273733
Wang, G. G., & Sun, J. Y. (2009). Clarifying the boundaries of human resource development. Human Resource Development International, 12(1), 93–103. https://doi.org/10.1080/13678860802638875
Webber, D. (2014, October). Is the return to education the same for everybody? IZA World of Labor. https://wol.iza.org/uploads/articles/92/pdfs/is-the-return-to-education-the-same-for-everybody.pdf
Woodley, A., & Simpson, C. (2001). Learning and earning: Measuring ‘rates of return’ among mature graduates from part-time distance courses. Higher Education Quarterly, 55(1), 28–41. https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-2273.00172
Wu, C. T., & Tang, C. W. (2020). The impact of the expansion of higher education on the rate of return to higher education in Taiwan. In G. Fan & T. S. Popkewitz (Eds.), Handbook of education policy studies (pp. 137–147). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-13-8343-4_7
Yang, C. H., Lin, C. H. A., & Lin, C. R. (2011). Dynamics of rate of returns for postgraduate education in Taiwan: The impact of higher education expansion. Asia Pacific Education Review, 12(3), 359–371. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12564-010-9132-y
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence. The copyright of all content published in IRRODL is retained by the authors.
This copyright agreement and use license ensures, among other things, that an article will be as widely distributed as possible and that the article can be included in any scientific and/or scholarly archive.
You are free to
- Share — copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format
- Adapt — remix, transform, and build upon the material for any purpose, even commercially.
The licensor cannot revoke these freedoms as long as you follow the license terms below:
- Attribution — You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.
- No additional restrictions — You may not apply legal terms or technological measures that legally restrict others from doing anything the license permits.