CBCSE’s mission is to improve the efficiency with which public and private resources are employed in education. We conduct research to determine the costs of educational programs as well as the economic value of program impacts in order to encourage educators, evaluators and policymakers to consider these factors in conjunction with program effectiveness in addressing educational goals. By considering both costs and effectiveness or benefits of educational programs, policymakers can optimize resource allocation and enhance productivity in education.


In 1970 Henry Levin published the first article applying the economic principles of cost-effectiveness analysis to education decision-making in a study addressing teacher recruitment and retention. In 1975 Levin detailed the “ingredients method” for determining costs of educational interventions, which begins with the identification of all resources required to implement a program. Since then this method has been further developed and applied in numerous cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analyses of educational interventions. In 2007, CBCSE was officially constituted as a research center based at Teachers College, Columbia University, to conduct research on the productivity of educational programs.

What We Do

CBCSE evaluates the productivity of educational programs and interventions by determining costs associated with their implementation and comparing resource requirements with educational or economic outcomes. In cost-benefit analyses we assign economic values to the outcomes produced by a program. Cost-benefit analysis can be used to compare programs addressing different outcomes, for example a program that addresses adolescent literacy with one that addresses college attendance, in order for policymakers to determine how best to distribute available resources for education.

Where several alternative programs are available that address the same educational outcome, for example, increasing the rate of high school completion, we combine program costs with effectiveness data in cost-effectiveness analyses. The resulting cost-effectiveness ratios can be used to rank alternative programs in terms of efficiency such that decision-makers can determine which program will produce the greatest impact for a given investment.

Quotes from Studies

New York City spends $31.5 billion annually on children (Belfield & Garcia, 2011).
CENTER FOR BENEFIT-COST STUDIES OF EDUCATION is a research center located at Teachers College, Columbia University