Red Deer College pumped $327 million into the regional economy, according to a recent study.
Provincewide, the college’s economic contribution topped $601 million, says an economic impact and investment analysis of 2011-12.
In Central Alberta, the benefits break down to include $252.9 million worth of student productivity, a measurement of the accumulated contribution of former students currently employed in the region.
College operations, including payroll and expenses for 1,450 employees, inject another $71.3 million into the area. Student spending adds $3.2 million, based on the amount of money shelled out by the nearly 800 outside students lured to the region by college programs.
Eight of the province’s 11 colleges each contributed $15,000 towards the study prepared by Idaho-based Economic Modeling Specialists International.
College president Joel Ward said the data gathered will be used in many ways.
“We always feel compelled to let the stakeholders in our institution understand the value of what it is that we do,” he said.
Those include the Alberta government, taxpayers and students themselves.
In its detailed cost analysis, the report makes a strong case for that value.
For every $1 that students invest in their higher learning, they can expect to receive $4.10 in higher future income, says the study. For the province, all that productivity amounts to nearly $812 million in added income over the course of students’ working lives.
Ward said the benefits to students isn’t measured only in the size of their paycheques. A more comfortable living also has a direct impact on their future health and happiness.
From a taxpayer perspective, the college also provides big benefits. About $62 million in taxes was invested in the college in 2011-12. That’s less than half the $132.6 million in tax revenue expected to be generated by students and businesses over time.
That boils down to $2.20 in tax benefits for every $1 invested.
The number crunching also comes in handy when the college is out in the community seeking corporate support.
By providing a strong workforce, the college’s graduates add value to local businesses and support their innovation efforts.
“We tell our corporate donors and sponsors you benefit in many, many ways,” Ward said. “We continually try to create a story or a narrative that demonstrates in a factual way, not in an anecdotal way, the value of this institution to our community, Central Alberta and even beyond.”
Ward said it’s not the first time studies like this have been done, but the results consistently prove to be eye-openers to many in the business community.
The research also shows areas of improvement. At Red Deer College, Ward would like to see more degree options and courses for students.
Alberta has a poor track record as far as post-secondary participation goes. Selling the value of an education is one way to combat that. Another is to ensure students can find the courses they need and reflect their interests.
The study also looked at the economic impact of Bow Valley College of Calgary, Grande Prairie Regional College, Lethbridge College, Medicine Hat College, NorQuest College in Edmonton, Northern Lakes College in Slave Lake, and Olds College.
The report said that Olds College contributes $143.6 million to the local economy.
It said that Olds College spent some $43 million on wages and other operational expenditures that year, while the approximately 158 students from outside the area who attended the college contributed nearly $900,000 more.
A much bigger financial impact related to the higher earnings and increased productivity of Olds College graduates working in the region. EMSI placed this figure at $99.7 million.