Enrolling in college and working towards a degree are often touted as the best way to boost your earning potential and lay the foundation for a secure financial future.
Unfortunately, that is far from reality for many students who enrolled at for-profit colleges in the United States.
According to to a recent report published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, students who enrolled in certificate or degree programs at for-profit colleges actually experienced a drop in earnings — $920 less per year for certificate students and $600-$700 less per year for degree students — as well as an increase in debt after they left school.
The study is based on an analysis of tax data and information from the U.S. Education Department on roughly 1.4 million students who received federal student aid and left a for-profit college between 2006 and 2008. The research includes both students who graduated from the for-profit colleges and those who dropped out before completing their certificate or degree program.
"Certificate, associate's, and bachelor's degree students generally experience declines in earnings in the 5 to 6 years after attendance relative to their own earnings in the years before attendance," write co-authors Stephanie Riegg Cellini of George Washington University and Nicholas Turner of the U.S. Treasury Department. "Examining the distribution of average annual earnings effects and average annual debt payments reveals that the vast majority of for-profit students experience both higher debt and lower earnings after attendance, relative to the years before attendance."
The study authors acknowledged that the students studied for the report left college during or just before the Great Recession. They also noted that students who completed their certificate or degree program through a for-profit university did experience a bump in earnings.
The Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, a trade group for for-profit colleges, said the study is flawed.
"The American economy suffered a 9.1 percent decline in middle-skill jobs during the Great Recession, while in the years following we have only seen a 1.9 percent recovery," said Steve Gunderson, the president and CEO of the APSCU. "Performance across the entire American economy was down — so it not surprising that earnings for those most harmed by the economic downturn would also be down."
Gunderson said analyzing the lifetime earnings of students — rather than their wages five years post-college — would provide a more reliable and accurate earnings picture.
This study is the most recent blow for the already embattled for-profit college industry.
Check out "College Is Still Worth Every Penny – If You Graduate."
RELATED: The best cities for new graduates
What do you think of the post-college earnings for for-profit college students? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.