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Study promotes value of community colleges

Hoping to promote the value of their campuses at a time of deep cuts in state funding, the leaders of Maryland's 16 community colleges released a study yesterday showing the system adds $5.6 billion annually to the state's economy.

That number includes wages and benefits to employees, the additional income generated as those funds are spent, capital spending and higher annual earnings for graduates, according to the study released at the Maryland Association of Counties conference in Ocean City.

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"I think it's a very powerful tool to help us tell our story, to give us some validity," said Andrew C. Jones, president of the Community College of Baltimore County, Catonsville.

Telling their story has been particularly urgent for community colleges as state and county leaders have faced huge budget shortfalls this year.

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Community colleges, which receive state funding based on a percentage of spending on the University of Maryland, saw a 10.2 percent decrease in state support for fiscal year 2004.

Those cuts coincide with significant increases in enrollment at two-year schools. Community colleges enroll 53 percent of Maryland undergraduates, said Anthony G. Kinkel, executive director of the Maryland Association of Community Colleges.

In coming years, large graduating classes, more students seeking to go to college and increasing entrance requirements and costs at the University of Maryland will send more than 20,000 additional students to community colleges, Kinkel said.

CC Benefits Inc., which conducted the study, was created in cooperation with the Association of Community College Trustees.

In addition to stimulating the economy by providing jobs and buying goods and services, community colleges in Maryland make the work force more productive, the study said.

The study also found that governments recoup $11.90 for every dollar spent on community colleges. That number is based on taxes from higher future earnings of students and reduced spending - because of higher education - for jails, health care, unemployment, welfare and absenteeism.

Because of increased earning power after they graduate, students were found to receive a 24 percent return on the money spent for their educations.

"Not only do we add more money into the economy, we also reduce taxes needed [for social services]," Kinkel said. "We never quantified that number before."

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Among the findings for fiscal year 2002, when state and local government allocated $459 million to community colleges:

The skills taught by community colleges increased the output of industries where former students are employed by $7 billion.

For every government dollar spent, student earnings increased by an average of $1.19 a year and the state saved 16 cents a year in social costs.

State and local government support for community colleges will be recovered in 10.2 years through higher taxes and lower social costs.


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