Report: Community colleges a solid investment for students, employers

November 21, 2014

A new study released this week by the Illinois Community College Board finds that Illinois community colleges significantly contribute to the economic vitality of their regions and state.

According to the study, Illinois community colleges add skills to our workforce and boost the competitiveness of our businesses. Graduates generate billions of dollars in local, state and federal taxes. As major employers and business entities, Illinois community colleges generate about 48,000 jobs. And an Illinois community college education increases earnings for workers, even during the recession.

"Overall, this study clearly demonstrates that, for a small investment, Illinois community colleges are unmatched in their long term payoff to Illinois' students, employers, and local communities," ICCB Chairman Alexi Giannoulias said.

Among the report's highlights:

  • An Illinois community college graduate can expect a total lifetime earnings gain of $570,000 – a 44 percent increase over the average total lifetime earnings of those not completing a community college program.
  • Taking courses at an Illinois community college increases a student's earnings 25.3 percent over pre-enrollment wages.
  • Investing in an Illinois community college degree yields an average annual rate of 14.2 percent, compared to a 3.7 percent average in the housing market and 9.3 percent in the S&P 500.
  • Students enrolled in Illinois community colleges in 2002 generated $17.2 billion in state and federal income tax revenue between 2003 and 2012.
  • Illinois community colleges are advancing the state's goal of 60 percent of adults with a college degree or marketable credential by the year 2025: Statewide, there was a 57 percent increase in Illinois community college graduates between 2000 and 2012.

"Community colleges are the lifeblood of many local communities in Illinois," said Dr. Karen Hunter Anderson, executive director of the Illinois Community College Board. "Investing in Illinois community colleges is not only good for students, but also good for local communities that benefit from significant economic growth and job creation."

The Northern Illinois University Center for Governmental Studies conducted the economic impact study. The ICCB is the state coordinating board for community colleges. Illinois is home to 48 community colleges in 39 districts and has the third-largest community college system in the nation, serving nearly 1 million residents each year in credit and non-credit courses.