Editor’s note: This is the first of two articles on results of a study commissioned by Barton Community College to define the value of the college in various areas. Today’s story will explain the study and the benefits provided from taxpayers’ and students’ perspective. The second article will continue with highlights from the perspective of businesses, and with the college’s overall investment to society. Content was provided by BCC.
Special to the Tribune
Barton Community College is one of the area’s largest employers. It’s a progressive, comprehensive community college with offerings ranging from art and traditional associate degree options to more than 25 industry-specific training programs like nursing, natural gas measurement and more. The college’s activities bring in money to the area, stimulate the local economy and it is a driving force behind reducing crime rates and improving quality of life.
While some of these claims are self-evident, it can be difficult to assign any quantitative value to the benefits provided to the local communities. In an effort to provide some context on the college’s value, the Barton Board of Trustees commissioned a study by Economic Modeling Specialists Inc., a company that specializes in providing such data for colleges.
The EMSI study sources include the 2012-13 academic and financial reports from the college, industry and employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, earning and demographic data from the U.S. Census Bureau and a variety of studies and surveys relating education to social behavior. The Barton Service Area includes Barton, Rice, Rush, Stafford, Ellsworth, Russell and Pawnee counties.
The study was broken into four primary pieces that look at the college’s value from the perspectives of students, taxpayers and businesses, with the last report examining social benefits.
Board of Trustees Chair Mike Johnson said he was pleased to see the numbers represent what he believed about the college all along.
“The importance of Barton, not only to Barton County, but the entire central Kansas area, cannot be underestimated,” he said. “The institution is an integral part of this area’s educational, recreational and economic development activities.”
The following are highlights from the study results. Complete details can be found at economicstudy.bartonccc.edu.
Taxpayers in Barton County and across the state paid $17.9 million to support Barton’s operations, but the study shows that for every $1, taxpayers see a cumulative return of $2 over the course of students’ working lives. This comes in the form of higher tax receipts and public sector savings.
For example, educated individuals are less likely to have poor health habits, commit crimes or claim welfare or unemployment benefits. The improved lifestyles of these students, according to the study, will result in $3.8 million in savings to government programs over the students’ working careers.
This translates to an annual rate of return on taxpayer investment of 5 percent, which is considered favorable compared to the 1.1 percent discount rate used by the federal government to appraise long term investments.
In addition, almost 90 percent of Barton students remain in Kansas after finishing their educations.
Of the four beneficiaries examined in the study, students arguably have the most direct and substantial benefit from Barton’s operations. Barton served 16,240 credit students and 332 non-credit students in 2012-13.
The cumulative cost to attend college for Barton students was $10.1 million in tuition, fees and books in 2012-13. The opportunity cost, namely foregone time and earnings they could have made working instead, was estimated to be about $33.6 million. The return on that investment is an impressive 14.3 percent, which comes in the form of higher wages throughout students’ working lives. For every $1 invested, students see a $3.50 return.
Associate’s degree completers earn about $1,311,500 over the course of a working lifetime in the Barton service area, which is $313,900 more than someone with only a high school diploma. At a career midpoint, a Barton graduate would earn about $7,300 more annually than someone without a higher education degree. Those who transfer and continue their educations will continue to see significant benefits at each education level.