A Publication of WTVP

When the State of Illinois decided to support the development of community colleges, a founding principle was these entities would give something back to the people of each district. On a gut level, we know community colleges make a difference. We know of students who didn't do well in high school but blossomed in a community college. We hear of students who couldn't afford four-year programs, started at Illinois Central College, and went on to rewarding and exciting professions. We get reports of workers who came back to ICC to sharpen skills or develop new ones. But what about the economic impact?

A preliminary report, The Socioeconomic Benefits Generated by Illinois Central College, compiled by CCBenefits for the Association for Community College Trustees (ACCT), concluded "ICC is a sound investment from a multiple of perspectives." The report found Illinois Central College benefits our community in a number of ways.

ICC employs more than 1,500 people annually. These people receive wages and salaries. The result of ICC employees spending their money in our community generates an additional $48 million each year to our economy.

The report also looked at the economic impact of educating the people of central Illinois. Since it began, ICC students have completed more than 3.4 million credit hours of instruction. Each hour of higher education has an economic implication. Simply put, people with more education generally earn more and spend more, creating, as the report puts it, "a more robust" economy. The report says this past instruction "adds some $271 million in annual earnings" to the area. The report estimates students who take 30 credit hours in a year are likely to earn $4,000 more per year for each year they're employed than if they had never attended ICC.

According to the report, the investment students make in their education "compares favorably with the returns on other investments, e.g., the long-term return on U.S. stocks and bonds." The report estimates students will realize a 22 percent return rate on their investment of time and money.

A college education also affects the health and wellbeing of the region. College-educated people have lower smoking and alcohol abuse rates and lower absenteeism rates, according to the report. The report estimates an ICC education results in cost savings of more than $2.2 million due to reduced smoking and alcohol consumption. Likewise, regional employers realize 8,000 fewer days of health-related absenteeism by employees who experienced an ICC education. The benefits of education also produce community gains by influencing a decline in crime, welfare enrollment, and unemployment rates.

To calculate whether ICC is a good investment for taxpayers, the researchers projected "the associated educational benefits into the future, discounting them back to the present, and weighing these against the [money] state and local taxpayers spend during the analysis year to support the college." According to the report, "ICC is a sound investment from a multiple of perspectives. It enriches the lives of students while reducing the demand for tax-payer-supported social services. Finally, it contributes to the vitality of both the local and state economies." IBI