St. Clair County Community College (SC4) provides enormous economic value to St. Clair County and the surrounding area, generating more than $137 million in total economic impact.
The figure is among key findings of a newly released study by the nationally recognized economic research firm Emsi Burning Glass, which uses labor market statistics to measure the social as well as the economic impact of the community college in the region.
The study shows a high rate of return on investment for students, taxpayers and society.
Students enjoy a 14.5 percent rate of return on their educational investment at SC4. For every $1 students invest, they’ll receive $3.80 in higher future earnings than their non-degree holding peers.
Taxpayers receive a high rate of return on their investment as well. State and local funding of $18.9 million in the study year generated $35.6 million in total benefits through added public sector revenue and savings derived through improved alumni salaries and lifestyles. This means for every tax dollar spent educating students attending SC4, taxpayers receive an average of $2.00 in return over the course of the students’ working lives—an annual rate of return of 4.3 percent.
Society invested $48.4 million in SC4 in FY 2020-21. This includes the college’s expenditures, student expenses, and student opportunity costs. In return, the state of Michigan will receive an estimated present value of $417 million in added state revenue over the course of the students’ working lives.
Michigan will also benefit from an estimated $9.5 million in present value social savings related to reduced crime, lower welfare and unemployment, and increased health and well-being across the state. Every dollar society invests in SC4 yields an average of $8.80 in benefits to society.
“The college naturally helps students achieve their individual potential and develop the knowledge, skills, and abilities they need to have fulfilling and prosperous careers,” the report states. “However, SC4 impacts St. Clair County beyond influencing the lives of students. The college’s program offerings supply employers with workers to make their businesses more productive. The college, its day-to-day operations, its construction activities, and the expenditures of its students support the county economy through the output and employment generated by county vendors. The benefits created by the college extend as far as the state treasury in terms of the increased tax receipts and decreased public sector costs generated by students across the state.”
The study showed that in FY 2020-21, operations, construction and student spending of SC4, together with the enhanced productivity of its alumni, generated $137.7 million in added income for the St. Clair County economy— equal to approximately 2.3 percent of the total gross regional product (GRP) of St. Clair County. 2,041 jobs exist in the county because of the economic impact of SC4.
SC4 students, both drawn to and retained in the area because of the college, added $855,200 to the regional economy. The impact of SC4 alumni, including thousands employed in St. Clair County, amounted to $112.9 million in added income for the St. Clair County economy.
Michigan’s community colleges enroll nearly the same amount of students as Michigan’s public four-year colleges and universities. Historically, community colleges such as SC4 offer more affordable tuition, quality programs, enhanced personalized attention and support, flexible options and seamless transfer pathways.