SWIC touts study showing economic impact

BELLEVILLE – Southwestern Illinois College outperformed the state community college average in several major economic impact and completion categories according to a new Illinois Community College Board economic impact report.

Specifically, the school said,

– SWIC students see a 19.3 percent rate of return on their college investment over a 40-year career. This compares to a statewide-average 14.2 percent rate of return. A key reason for this ROI-outcome is SWIC students pay approximately $14,000 less for a two-year degree or certificate than the state-average cost, according the study. Including “out-of-pocket and foregone earnings,” the study assessed SWIC costs at $29,426 compared with the state average of $43,331, the college said.

– SWIC grads earned $4,200 more versus the state average increase of $3,600. The “average earnings gain by credit hour for completers and non-completers” showed SWIC grads earned $211 more per credit hour versus the state average gain of $159. “Pre-enrollment to completion earnings per hour” data showed SWIC grads earned $2.94 more compared with the state average of $2.41.

– Some 73.8 percent of SWIC students complete their degree/certificate coursework compared to a statewide average of 57.2 percent. Community college graduates tend to stay in those communities to work, raise families and contribute economically via taxes and philanthropy.

“This study confirms the value of a community college education, particularly for SWIC students who pay less and earn more than the state average, in terms of cost and return on investment,” said SWIC President Georgia Costello, Ph.D.

According to the report, additional SWIC economic impact is realized through: state taxes ($103 million) and federal taxes ($337 million) paid by its 1,573 employees.

The study also validated the college’s commitment to supporting student veterans, finding that SWIC serves three times as many student veterans as other community colleges in Illinois. By the numbers, 1,242 veterans made up 5.1 percent of total enrollment at SWIC in 2012. Statewide, veteran enrollment was 13,225, just 1.8 percent of total enrollment.

The study examined the economic impact of community colleges themselves, finding that direct and indirect expenditures attributable to SWIC activities equated to $79.6 million in fiscal year 2012. Statewide the economic impact total is $3.1 billion.

While the individual earnings rate of return for SWIC completers is five percentage points higher than the state average, the study showed the average 40-year earnings gain for a 25-year-old SWIC graduate is $483,924 compared with the ICCB average of $572,673.

“This difference is explained by the fact that our Illinois Department of Employment Security database does not include border-state or federal-employment data,” said Brian Richard, Ph.D., assistant director of the Northern Illinois University Center for Governmental Studies, which conducted the ICCB study. “So we were unable to track employment and salary data for the approximately 25 percent of SWIC graduates who secure work in Missouri or at Scott Air Force Base, or who transfer to a four-year university.”

The study confirmed 75 percent of 2011 SWIC graduates and certificate earners were employed in Illinois in the year following completion.

The ICCB study was funded entirely through an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant. No cost was incurred locally. SWIC siad the study is different from many other state and national higher education economic impact analyses because student-level data was matched with employee-level wage data to determine student economic impacts through their employment and earnings gains.

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