NWC News Desk

Community colleges' impact on Wyoming estimated at $866 million

Posted May 25, 2011

POWELL, Wyo. - Wyoming taxpayers see a rate of return of 5.2% on their investment in Wyoming’s community colleges, according to a newly released study.

Conducted by an independent education research and analysis firm, the study documents the vital role Wyoming’s community colleges play in the economic future of the state and the lives of the 60,000 students they enroll.

According to the report, the statewide economy sees a total average annual added income of $866 million due to the activities of the seven community college districts.

The study also finds meaningful economic impacts for students at Wyoming’s community colleges. Students see a rate of return on their educational investment of 19.3%. For every dollar a student invests in their education, they receive a cumulative $5.60 over their working careers.

Compared to someone with a high school diploma, associate degree graduates working in Wyoming earn 35% more per year, on average, over the course of a working lifetime.

The report also detailed the social perspectives of the colleges’ impacts. Higher earnings that accrue to students of Wyoming’s community colleges and associated increases in state income expand the tax base in Wyoming by about $128.3 million each year.

Wyoming will see avoided social costs amounting to $4.3 million per year due to students of Wyoming’s community colleges, including savings associated with improved health, reduced crime, and reduced welfare and unemployment.

 State and local governments allocated $164.9 million in support of Wyoming’s community colleges in FY 2009-10. For every dollar of this support, taxpayers see a cumulative return of $1.40 over the course of students’ working careers (in the form of higher tax receipts and avoided costs).

The analysis was largely based on the 2009-10 reporting year, when Wyoming’s community colleges served 37,667 credit and 22,702 non-credit students.

In this study, Economic Modeling Specialists Inc. (EMC) applied a comprehensive model designed to quantify the economic benefits of community and technical colleges and translate these into common sense benefit/cost and investment terms. The study includes two major analyses – investment returns and economic growth analysis.

Northwest College’s annual
local impact set at $78 million

The study also listed the economic impact of each of the state’s seven community colleges.

The impact of NWC’s operations on its service area (Big Horn, Park and Washakie counties) is approximately $17 million annually, while the student spending effect is approximately $4.79 million.

In addition, EMC estimates that 77 percent of NWC students stay in the college’s service area, impacting the local economy by contributing another $56.2 million annually in income to the area.

That brings NWC’s total economic impact to over $78 million, or roughly 4.1 percent of the total economy of the combined three-county service area.

Northwest College President Paul Prestwich said the report shows the “win-win” nature of a community college education.

“Students reap the rewards of more fulfilling careers and increased incomes,” Prestwich said, “while local area taxpayers benefit from the economic boost of a vital educational and cultural center and the related revenues associated with it, not to mention the decreased demand for social services.

“We’ve always known that Northwest College is a good investment. It’s timely to have data that demonstrates this.”