It should come as no surprise that colleges and universities are some of the most important employers in the country. Diverse in size, geographic location, and mission, the nation’s postsecondary institutions fit the economic needs of their community and produce research and services that other employers would be hard-pressed to match. The main principle that binds our institutions – the goal of education – is a lynch pin in the 21st century knowledge economy and solidifies colleges and universities as a cornerstone of economic progress for all. Consider the following:
Colleges and universities are major employers and workforce developers. They are the largest employers in 10 states and in two-thirds of America’s 100 largest cities. Overall, U.S. colleges and universities employ 3.98 million people, or about 2.5 percent of the American workforce.
Besides employing millions themselves, these institutions are vital workforce pipelines for the private and public sectors—a role that continues to expand in our shifting economy. In fact, 99 percent of jobs created since the Great Recession have gone to employees with more than a high school diploma. And predictions forecast that 65 percent of U.S. jobs will require postsecondary education or advanced training by 2020.
Colleges and universities attract and cultivate talent to drive the economy forward. About one million international students study at American colleges and universities over the course of a year, contributing $36.9 billion to the U.S. economy and supporting more than 450,000 jobs through expenditures on higher education, accommodations, dining, retail, and transportation. And just as importantly, colleges and universities essentially increase wages of all workers – even those without a degree! When the number of college graduates increases one percent within a region, overall wages of high school grads increase by 1.6 percent.
Colleges and universities serve as powerful knowledge centers, and the weight of their economic contributions is felt across the nation. As discussion continues about the return on investment of higher education, trustees are uniquely positioned to share how truly important colleges and universities are to the nation’s economy.