Iowa’s community colleges have a $5.5 billion impact on the state’s economy, according to a report prepared by Emsi Burning Glass and released Tuesday by the Iowa Department of Education and the Iowa Association of Community College Trustees.
The 15 colleges have 127,013 credit students, 145,814 non-credit students and 11,744 employees, the report stated.
The state’s community colleges support an estimated 87,149 jobs — one out of 23 jobs in the state — according to the report, which used data from the 2019-20 reports from the colleges, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Census Bureau, Emsi Burning Glass’s Multi-Regional Social Accounting Matrix model and various studies and surveys. That includes 71,230 jobs support by alumni working in Iowa, 11,631 supported by spending on college operations, 3,936 supported by student spending and 352 jobs supported by construction spending by the colleges.
“I think this really shows the impact of the state’s community colleges,” said Dan Kinney, president of Iowa Western Community College. “One out of 23 jobs is supported by the community colleges — that’s impressive.”
According to the report:
Students see a return of $6.30 in future earnings for every dollar they invest in their education and an average annual rate of return of 24.9%
For every dollar of public money invested in the community colleges, taxpayers receive $2.50 in return and have an average annual rate of return of 6.2%
People in Iowa invested $1.4 billion in Iowa’s community colleges in FY 2019-20. This includes the college’s expenditures, student expenses and student opportunity costs. In return, the state of Iowa will receive an estimated $11.6 billion in added state revenue over the course of the students’ working lives.
Iowa will also benefit from an estimated $277.9 million in social savings related to reduced crime, lower welfare and unemployment and increased health and well-being across the state. For every dollar society invests in the state’s community colleges, an average of $8.60 in benefits will accrue to Iowa over the course of the students’ careers.
“At a time when investments in higher education are being more closely scrutinized, this report clearly demonstrates the value Iowa’s community colleges bring to students, taxpayers and the State of Iowa,” said Emily Shields, executive director of the Iowa Association of Community College Trustees.
The colleges contribute to higher overall individual earnings. Students earn $7,900 more in annual income compared to someone with only a high school diploma.
Said Kinney, “It really shows the importance of community colleges’ impact on income and why we need to invest in community college education in the state of Iowa.”
“The colleges play a key role in helping students increase their employability and achieve their individual potential,” the Economic Impact Executive Summary stated.
“This report shows the importance of an education to secure financial stability,” Kinney said.
Many of the students drawn to Iowa by a community college stay in the state and add to its workforce and productivity, Kinney said.
In addition, Iowa Western provides training to thousands of new employees at area industries, workers who need to learn new skills, apprentices and some of the managers who supervise employees and operations at both blue- and white-collar businesses.
In 2020, Iowa Western conducted training at more than a dozen companies throughout southwest Iowa. That included more than 20 projects ranging from one-day training sessions to multiyear customized training programs.
“I think economic development — growing businesses, working with businesses in our community — is a vital mission to what Iowa Western does,” Kinney said in a previous interview.
Besides its economic impact, Iowa Western has a cultural influence on the community, offering local and national fine arts events and operating its own radio station that plays a different style of music than other area stations.
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