Skip to content


Borrowing – Taking money with a promise to repay the money in the future.

Costs – Things unfavorable to a decisionmaker.

Debt – Money owed in exchange for loans or for goods or services purchased with credit.

Demand – The quantity of a good or service that buyers are willing and able to buy at all possible prices during a certain time period.

Earnings – Money or income received in exchange for labor or services.

Earnings risk – The possibility that a college graduate may not find a job or may not find a job with the level of expected earnings.

Failure risk – The possibility that a student will not complete college.

Graduation rate – The percentage of students who complete a given course of study (e.g., high school or college) relative to the total number of students enrolled over a given period.

Grants – Money that does not have to be repaid that is given by the government to a recipient based on specific criteria and a designated purpose. Some college grants must be repaid if the student fails to maintain college eligibility.

Income – The payment people receive for providing resources in the marketplace. When people work, they provide human resources (labor) and in exchange they receive income in the form of wages or salaries. People also earn income in the forms of rent, profit, and interest.

Interest – The price of using credit; the price of using someone else’s money.

Labor force – The total number of workers, including both the employed and the unemployed.

Private (or nonpublic) college – A college owned and operated by an individual, religious institution, partnership, or a corporation other than the state, a subdivision of the state, or the Federal government and that is supported primarily with nonpublic funds.

Public college – A college that receives monetary support from public funds.

Quartile – One part of a set of data divided into four equal parts.

Recession – A period of declining real income and rising unemployment; significant decline in general economic activity extending over a period of time.

Return on investment – A performance measure of the effectiveness of an investment. It is calculated as the net gain (gain from investment minus cost of investment) divided by the cost of the investment.

Scholarships – Financial assistance given to support a student’s education, awarded on the basis of academic or other achievement.

Skill premium – The difference between the average earnings of those with a four-year college degree and those without.

Supply – The quantity of a good or service that producers are willing and able to sell at all possible prices during a certain time period.

Underemployed – Wanting a full-time job but having only a part-time job; being overqualified for a job and receiving less pay than would be earned at a job requiring a higher skill level.

Unemployment – A condition where people at least 16 years old are without jobs and actively seeking work.

Unemployment rate – The percentage of the labor force that is willing and able to work, does not currently have a job, and is actively looking for employment.