Report details impact of community colleges on economy and income

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Community Colleges have a multibillion-dollar impact on the state’s economy and will be “part of a fair recovery from the pandemic,” says new report from Northern Illinois University Center for Governmental Studies .

The Economic Impacts and Employment Outcome of Illinois Community College Student Report indicates that indirect economic output from community colleges in 2020 was $ 3.5 billion. Directly, the state’s 48 community colleges employed 32,867 people in 2020 for a combined total salary of $ 1.3 billion.

Lazaro Lopez, chairman of the Illinois Community College Board, said at a news conference unveiling the study that it proves how the state’s community college system is an economic force.

“As Illinois’ largest workforce training provider, community colleges create an educated and skilled workforce that meets the current and future needs of many critical industries across our state.” , did he declare. “And through this work, community colleges provide substantial economic benefit to the state and the local communities where they reside.”

An investment in an earned associate’s degree is worth $ 238,000, according to the report, which means someone who completes a degree can expect to earn significantly more over 40 years than if they didn’t.

“The internal rate of return on their investment is 26.8%,” according to the study. “In other words, if a student put $ 33,368 in an investment that yielded 40 annual payments equivalent to earnings earnings from an associate’s degree, he would earn interest at a rate of 26.9%.”

This takes into account an alleged cost of $ 31,883 for the degree, including tuition and other fees, as well as the “opportunity” cost, which includes time spent in school instead of working.

Brian Richard, one of the study authors from the Center for Governmental Studies at NIU, said the report is based on actual graduates’ earnings, rather than national averages.

“Something unique about this is that we have attached, connected, the actual student records to the actual salary records, so that the numbers in this study reflect the reality of what these students went through. the labor market, not just estimates based on national and other averages. He declared during the press conference. “The numbers reflect the real experience of students who have graduated in the past 10 years or so. “

A short-term, narrow degree or even a certificate can lead to higher wages and more likely long-term employment, said Brian Durham, executive director of ICCB.

“Over 84 percent of graduates with a long-term certificate or (associate’s degree in applied science) work in their chosen field within one year of graduation.” , did he declare. “And five years after graduation, graduates with an associate’s degree who then transfer to a four-year institution have employment rates of 85 percent.”

For those who get short-term certificates, Durham said electrical and power transmission installers can earn nearly $ 70,000, while those entering the fire protection business can earn more than $ 70,000. $ 54,000. Heating and air conditioning jobs can pay more than $ 48,000, while various other programs can result in salaries of $ 36,000 to nearly $ 44,000, depending on the program.

Participants also praised the state’s Workforce Equity Initiative, an annual investment of $ 18.7 million from the ICCB that “enables colleges to remove barriers to student success, which can include free tuition, childcare, transport and school supplies ”for minority populations at risk. communities, according to its website.

LaCrea Lott, a student at Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield as part of the WEI program, said it gave her “the opportunity to reach higher heights in medical career, whereas before it seemed impossible to to do”.

“WEI has helped me take my education and training to the next level,” Lott said. “With the supports of the program, like free tuition, technical support during the pandemic, and flexible class schedule, I was able to successfully complete my medical assistant degree.”

The WEI program and community colleges in general could be an important tool in recovering from the pandemic, according to the study, as minority workers have seen disproportionate unemployment rates amid business closures, and community colleges serve “a significant portion of African American and Latinx students.” . “

Durham said community colleges faced challenges early in the pandemic as much of the training they provide is hands-on. While this led to “some drop in enrollment” at the height of economic shutdowns, he said, enrollments appear to have rebounded a bit, although official numbers for the year are yet to be released.

According to the report, as the long-term economic changes caused by the pandemic become more apparent, “community colleges and other parts of the workforce development system can help retrain those who have permanently lost. their jobs “.

Capitol News Illinois is a non-profit, non-partisan news service covering state government and distributed to over 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

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