Community Colleges: Engines of Prosperity

July 15, 2009 by Emsi Burning Glass

image of Lightcast gradiant

Time Magazine is the latest publication to jump in the fray highlighting how community colleges can be a crucial cog in helping the country dig out of the recession. Time released a lengthy story this week (“Can Community Colleges Save the U.S. Economy”) that goes in depth on how quickly CCs can get students ready to work, yet most don’t have the resources to handle the waves of jobseekers looking for training.

Chronically cash-starved, two-year schools pull in an average of just 30% of the federal funding per student allocated to state universities — though they educate nearly the same number of undergraduates. (Even after you account for the academic research that goes on at four-year schools, experts say community colleges still get shafted.) Two-year schools have been growing faster than four-year institutions, with the number of students they educate increasing more than sevenfold since 1963, compared with a near tripling at four-year schools. Yet federal funding has held virtually steady over the past 20 years for community colleges, while four-year schools’ funding has increased.

The story throws out some other interesting college-related numbers, and here are a few more from a study EMSI conducted a couple years ago in conjunction with the Association of Community College Trustees that analyzed the impact of the nation’s community and technical colleges:

  • As of 2007, the impacts of students who have studied at two-year colleges in the last 30 years contribute $668.2 billion to the economy — that’s 5% of the 2007 national GDP.

  • Students enrolled at two-years in 2006-07 will provide around $34.5 billion annually to the nation’s economy once they enter the workforce.

  • The total socioeconomic benefits and savings associated with community and technical colleges yield an average 16.1% return on investment to state and local governments.

  • As of 2007, America’s workforce had accumulated an estimated 2.4 billion credit hours at community and technical colleges.

Check out our socioeconomic impact report page for more info on how EMSI can assess the impact of your college, and feel free to contact us.