Study Encourages Local Government to Fund Higher Education

By: Sinikka Smith

A study done on South Puget Sound Community College during the fiscal year of 2013-2014 shows that SPSCC has a significant positive impact on local economy- specifically $316.1 million. “The purpose of this study is to investigate the economic impacts created by SPSCC on the business community and the benefits that the college generates in return for the investments made by its key stakeholder groups— students, taxpayers, and society.”

The study found benefits in return of interest for not only students, but also funders, taxpayers, and society. Since higher education correlates with higher earnings, the study suggests that students benefit in the long term from their investments of textbooks, tuition, and other costs. For every dollar spent on SPSCC funding, students get back $3.60 in higher future earnings. Olivia Prado, a student at SPSCC, thinks the money she’s putting into her education is well worth it. After showing her the results of the study, she agreed with the study and was intrigued numbers that proved the benefits of government-funded colleges. Olivia stated that not only does the study make sense and that her expenses are worth the future payout, but that her education at SPSCC is “a really good background for what…[she’s] going into”, and her education is “providing her with the resources” to get there.

The return for local taxpayers is also strong. The study determined that SPSCC returns more money to the economy than its’ initial cost of funding. People with higher income typically pay more taxes, therefore channeling more money back into the state then people without higher education. Taxes paid by employers that sell products also boost local economy when more purchases are made. The return to taxpayers from SPSCC related investments is $3.10 for every $1 spent, per the study. Society in general also benefits from state – funded education: if people with higher education make more money, they can afford to eat well and take better care of themselves. These habits decrease the cost of healthcare, rehabilitation, violence and crime support and many more services that government-funding often pays for.

The study was conducted by Economic Modeling Specialists International, a company which specializes in “Using labor market data to connect and inform people, education, and business.” In terms of education, they help colleges acquire the funding they need to expand. EMSI provides data that convinces potential funders of the value of investing in higher education. SPSCC president Tim Stokes summarized the impact of the study, remarking “We know about the impact we have on the lives of our students, so we are happy to see this impact validated through this data that reveals the tremendous value of higher education in Thurston County.”