In a new policy brief, the American Association of Community Colleges concludes that, to meet the demand for a highly skilled workforce, “sustained and increased investments in community colleges are desperately needed.”
AACC’s brief, written by Christopher M. Mullin, cited a 2007 EMSI national study to show community college’s major return on investment. And Community College Times, in summarizing the brief, used an EMSI economic impact study of Ozarks Technical Community College as an example of the regional impact of colleges. In 2010 alone, EMSI did more than 100 such studies for colleges around the country.
Funding community colleges is also a sound economic investment for communities in terms of return on investment (ROI). A 2007 study by Economic Modeling Specialists Inc. showed that the ROI of state and local funding for community colleges averages 16 percent nationally.
A growing number of colleges and college systems are commissioning their own independent studies to detail their economic and community impacts locally and regionally, which speaks more directly to local officials. Last month, Ozarks Technical Community College (OTC) in Missouri released a study showing that the college contributes more than $211 million each year to its community through a combination of college operations, student spending and productivity of graduates in the workforce.
In terms of ROI, each $1 invested in OTC yields about $2 in benefits, the study said. OTC receives about $20 million annually in state appropriations and local taxes. The community OTC serves receives nearly $41 million back over the course of the careers of students—most of whom remain in their communities—in the form of increased tax revenue and avoided costs, it said.
“This study gave us an opportunity to quantify that impact on our community’s economy, demonstrating in hard figures what we already knew from the stories of our students: OTC improves the careers, finances and lives of individuals, which in turn improves the community,” said OTC President Hal Higdon.
Mullin also points to a Georgetown report that came out last year showing some associate’s degree holders earn more than those with bachelor’s degrees. Higher levels of education also have a substantial impact in diminishing the chances a worker will be unemployed. AACC used this chart in the policy brief:
The full policy brief can be found here (PDF).