At What Cost? Is Technical Education Worth the Investment?
Only in recent years have there been opportunities to assess the causal impact of participating in career and technical education (CTE) programs while in high school. To date, no work has assessed whether the relative costs of these programs meet or exceed the benefits as described in recent evaluations. In this working paper, the authors use available cost data to compare average costs per pupil in standalone high school CTE programs in Connecticut and Massachusetts to the most likely counterfactual schools. Under a variety of conservative assumptions about the monetary value of known educational and social benefits, the authors find that programs in Massachusetts offer clear positive returns on investment, whereas programs in Connecticut offer smaller, though mostly non-negative expected returns. The authors also consider the potential cost effectiveness of CTE programs offered in other contexts to address questions of generalizability.