Study shows economic impact of community colleges

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(The Center Square) – The Illinois Community College Board has released a study, in conjunction with the Northern Illinois Center for Governmental Studies, showing the impact of the schools on students and the state’s economy.

There are 48 community colleges in Illinois, making it the third-largest community college system in the country.

“This study through a statewide and individual district-level analysis, documents the return on investment of community colleges for Illinois students, businesses and local communities,” said Lazaro Lopez, ICCB Board Chair.

The report showed in fiscal 2020, the total economic output of Illinois community colleges on the statewide economy is estimated at $3.5 billion and 43,316 jobs. During that time, the schools directly employed nearly 33,000 staff with a total payroll of $1.3 billion.

“The study validates the economic power of Illinois community colleges which generate billions in economic output from direct spending and the ripple effect of this spending throughout local communities,” ICCB Executive Director Brian Durham said.

The study also examined job opportunities for students. It found that more than 84% of students who earn a long-term certificate or associate degree in applied science programs are employed within a year of graduation.

Enrollment numbers are rebounding around the state after plummeting during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some schools reported double-digit decreases in student enrollment last year.

“I would say that we expect that enrollment is better than it was last year during the midst of the hardcore part of the pandemic, so there have been some enrollment challenges certainly,” said Durham.

At Heartland Community College in Normal, the school reported 1,452 new students, a 23% increase from the start of the fall term last year.

“An investment in a community college education benefits all stakeholders-students, taxpayers, businesses and society as whole,” said Jim Reed, executive director of the Illinois Community College Trustees Association. “Illinois community colleges place the benefits of higher education within reach for everyone.”

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