Study: Community Colleges Boost Earnings Power, Local Economies

Community colleges provide a solid return on investment to students and taxpayers, according to a comprehensive new national study that assesses the economic impact of U.S. community colleges.

The bottom line: Research firm EMSI says community colleges “make a big difference in their regional economies -– both in the total added income that’s due to a college’s presence in its local area and in the increased productivity of students who are part of the local workforce.”

EMSI’s nationwide economic impact study shows that community college graduates see a return of nearly $5 for every dollar they invest in their education, while taxpayers see a return of more than six to one.

The firm, which has completed more than 1,000 economic impact studies for U.S. educational institutions over the past 14 years, examined academic and financial reports, industry and employment data, as well as other sources of information to compile the report.

A key finding that was community college students who graduate with an associate’s degree can expect to earn an average of $10,700 more each year than someone with only a high school degree -- $41,900, compared to $31,200.

The EMSI analysis also showed that for every dollar of public investment in community colleges, taxpayers receive benefits totaling $6.80 over the course of the students’ working lives.

The report is called “Where Value Meets Values: The Economic Impact of Community Colleges.” Read the executive summary.