On Accountability. (Controversy)

Article excerpt

I READ WITH INTEREST the article entitled "Banging the Bucket" that appeared in the July/August issue of University Business [Controversy; anonymous author]. With the statement that "it is not ethical to encourage investment by student, family, and society without some indication of a reasonable return to investors," the author gets to the heart of economic side of the educational accountability issue. This is an issue that we at Bridgeport, CT's Housatonic Community College, located in a five-year-old campus in the heart of the state's largest city, have addressed head-on, with eye-opening results.

In response to the legislature's demand for accountability from the state's community colleges and universities, we began looking for ways to quantify our economic impact. We knew we would need more than data such as enrollment and graduating student statistics that only hint at economic impact. We would need something that gives us a dollars-and-cents picture. Our research into this challenge took us to CCBenefits, a small consulting firm in Moscow, ID, that had been piloting an economic impact model that it developed for the Washington, DC-based Association of Community College Trustees. We discovered that the model could gauge the impact of rural colleges that are dominant players in an economy, as well as colleges like Housatonic that are smaller contributors to a larger, much more complex economic organism. We gave CCBenefits the go-ahead, becoming the third in the nation to complete such a study. The study showed that HCC:

* Contributes more than $60 million in earnings to the regional economy per year.

* Saves the State of Connecticut some $1.4 million per year in improved health and reduced welfare, unemployment, and crime.

* Enables students to enjoy a 27 percent return on their investment of time and money--a return much higher than the long-term return on U.S. stocks and bonds.

* Enables taxpayers to see an ROI of roughly 13 percent in attending the college, and recovery of all investments in two years.

According to the study, the annual wages and salaries HCC pays, along with the capital and operating expenditures, account for $12.8 million in the economy of the region. Added to this is $42.6 million in annual earnings stemming from the skills and knowledge students gained at HCC. Each year, as HCC students leave the college and join the workforce, the knowledge and skills acquired at HCC translate to higher earnings and a larger regional economy. …