It’s graduation season. Students are saying good-bye to their alma maters and heading off to further their education or embark on a career.
Although there are fewer and fewer graduating from our high schools, Prince County does have more college graduates now than just a couple of years ago. Holland College campuses in Summerside and Alberton recently held their second spring convocations.
The new campuses are offering students postsecondary education much closer to home but they are also drawing in new residents and injecting a vibrancy to Alberton and Summerside.
But it’s not just these two areas that are reaping benefits from community colleges. The whole Atlantic region is seeing positive returns on investments in community colleges
A recent study commissioned by the Atlantic Provinces Community College Consortium shows community colleges are acting as an economic engine throughout the region.
The benefits to students are obvious. The training they offer can lead to greater job opportunities and increased earnings.
But taxpayers are also benefitting from increased tax revenues and lower social costs. The study findings confirm that communities are seeing increased job and investment opportunities, an expanded economic base, and a boost to the tax base.
This Economic Modeling Specialists International study, analyzed data from community colleges in all four Atlantic provinces including Holland College.
They found Atlantic colleges inject some $4.7 billion of income into the economy each year. This includes direct college operations, student spending, the higher income created by college students joining the workforce, and associated business productivity gains.
Community colleges are also leveraging social savings as graduates will generate savings associated with improved health as well as reduced welfare and unemployment. These graduates will also benefit from higher earnings, leading to a higher tax base.
From an investment perspective, the study shows taxpayers and provincial governments gain a 7.2 per cent return on their college investment, while students see a 21.3 per cent rate of return because of higher lifetime earnings.
The report confirms that colleges are essential partners to government and industry in the development of the regional economy.
Despite that, Holland College continues to encounter fiscal challenges, as do most post-secondary institutions. Holland College announced just over a week ago that it will be increasing tuition by $100 for all full-time programs effective September of this year.
Even though colleges are a good investment, government and the private sector must strive to ensure the financial burden is distributed evenly. If rising tuition costs see the load shifting too much to the shoulders of students, it may turn them away. As valuable as community colleges are, they are only of value if they have students inside.