Deaf people who attended college, university, trade school, or other postsecondary training did better in life — regardless of whether or not they graduated. This is according to a new paper published in the American Annals of the Deaf by researchers from the National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes and SRI International.

NDC researchers Jeffrey Palmer, Savannah Davidson, and Stephanie W. Cawthon, in collaboration with Lynn Newman from SRI International, analyzed national data about the experiences of deaf students after high school. They compared students who did not enroll in college, those who enrolled but did not complete their program, and those who graduated.

College Matters, With or Without a Degree

Young deaf adults who earned a degree or certificate were more likely to be employed, earn higher wages, vote in elections, and to volunteer and engage in community service, including participating in organized groups.

In contrast, high school graduates were more likely to be unemployed, more likely to receive federal income assistance, and earned the least out of the three groups.

But it wasn’t just those who graduated college who benefited — any postsecondary experience paid off in the long run. Those who sought some education or training after high school, but did not graduate had similar outcomes to those who graduated from such a program.

The Bottom Line

Deaf students should explore a variety of opportunities after high school, and be encouraged to attend college, university, trade school, or other additional training after graduation.

Transition specialists, career counselors, families, and caregivers need to hold high expectations for deaf youth and abandon assumptions that only select deaf students can benefit from higher education.

Key Findings

  • 87% of the college graduates were employed compared to 68% of the high school graduates.

  • Wages were around 33% better for college graduates compared to high school graduates.

  • 75% of the college graduates and college non-completers were registered to vote.

  • 42% of the college graduates performed volunteer service compared to 16% of the high school graduates.

  • 95% of the high school graduates reported earning less than $25,000 per year.

  • 25% of the high school graduates received food assistance from the government.