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What Is the Value of College?



What is college worth? Not just to an individual, but how does the presence of a college ripple out into a community? The National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) commissioned a report to study this question, integrating quantitative data with narratives to paint a picture of how colleges enhance our communities. In her introduction to the report, Barbara Mistick, President National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, writes:

“Is investing in higher education a smart economic strategy? Is acquiring a college education, particularly at least a bachelor’s degree, beneficial to individuals and to society as a whole? The answers to these questions lie in this comprehensive assessment of the economic and social impact of higher education in America, particularly the role that private, nonprofit institutions play in shaping lives and anchoring communities.


Through extensive research, this report tells the story of the contributions of private, nonprofit colleges and universities using both a series of narratives and quantitative data analysis. The focus of the report is on the economic, social and cultural vitality that is added to communities, regions and the nation by private, nonprofit higher education.


The contributions of higher education extend far beyond an individual degree. Private, nonprofit colleges and universities play significant roles in the everyday lives of those living and working in college communities and are important contributors in many ways to the nation as a whole…


The economic impact of the private, nonprofit sector of higher education in FY 2018 and academic year 2018–2019 totaled $591.5 billion. Additionally, the sector directly employs more than 1.1 million people and supports and sustains another 2.3 million jobs. Private, nonprofit colleges and universities contributed nearly $80 billion in local, state and federal tax revenue.


We are a nation of college towns. Anchors in our communities. The impact of private, nonprofit higher education is measured not just by the millions of jobs these institutions create, support and sustain, the tens of billions of dollars they contribute to tax revenue and the more than half a trillion dollars they generate annually in economic impact. It is also measured in the quality of life private, nonprofit colleges and universities help create as they anchor communities across the nation.”


Read the entire report here.