Career Education at Grossmont, Cuyamaca colleges pays dividends for students, economy

March 09, 2023 at 1:46 PM

Cuyamaca College Automotive Technology students practicing maintenance procedures at the on campus lab.
Cuyamaca College Automotive Technology students practicing maintenance procedures at the on campus lab.

EL CAJONIt’s no secret that investing in a college education yields big returns, but new economic impact studies sponsored by the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District quantify just how profitable a college education can be for students and the economy. One finding: for every dollar students spend on Career Education, they earn $3.50 in the future. Career Education provides students of all ages with academic and technical skills, knowledge and training necessary to succeed in careers and become lifelong learners. Students can earn a short-term certificate or an associate degree in many academic areas related to Career Education.

“Every day we see the positive impact that a college education has on our students,” said Lynn Neault, Chancellor of the GCCCD. “This economic impact report not only shows just how valuable Career Education is for students, it also demonstrates its value to our communities, and the broader regional and state economy.”

The economic impact studies examined data gathered during the 2019-2020 fiscal year (FY), the most complete recent set of data available, to create a snapshot of the outcomes that Career Education has on the lives of graduates. The studies also looked at the effects of the district’s Career Education on the regional economy, local and state governments, through increased tax revenues and public sector savings, and society in general.

The studies were conducted by Emsi Burning Glass, now called Lightcast, which provides colleges and universities with labor market data so they can improve outcomes for students, businesses, and communities.

Direct spending by the district, students, and alumni fuels local and regional economy

The district’s Career Education programs add direct economic value to San Diego County in three primary ways: direct spending by the district, students, and alumni.

During FY 2019-20, the district’s day-to-day Career Education operations added $67.9 million in income to the county’s economy. Everyday spending by students, meanwhile, generated $40.9 million, and spending by alumni who live and work in the region generated $186.1 million. The total economic impact of the district’s Career Education programs in San Diego County came to $294.9 million. 

Career education gives students a high return on investment

The economic impact reports also showed that students who invest their time and money in Career Education are investing well. Graduates will collectively earn $208.9 million more over their careers than if they had earned only a high school diploma. That estimate of higher earnings yields a return on their investment in their education of 250%.

“Career education empowers people to pursue lives of purpose and upward mobility,” said Grossmont’s Dean of Career Technical Education and Workforce Development Javier Ayala. Preparing the workforce begins with skills that K-12 schools teach young people, and continues at community colleges into and throughout their adulthood, said Ayala, who also serves as Chair of the Skilled Workforce Subcommittee at the San Diego East County Economic Development Council.

Career education prepares individuals to enter the workforce, and helps them gain the skills they need to advance in their careers. “Preparing our region’s workforce and providing professionals with the specialized training they need to advance is so important for the economic prosperity of our region,” Ayala said.

Benefits to taxpayers

The economic impact studies also found tangible and significant benefits for taxpayers. Career Education graduates will rely less on public services compared with people with a high school education. Savings will be generated in three primary areas: healthcare, the justice system, and income assistance. By the time they retire, total taxpayer benefits are estimated to reach $82.9 million, in today’s dollars.

Societal benefits to California

California’s investment in the district also yields significant societal benefits for the state, the studies found. In FY 2019-20, the state invested $125.7 million to support the district’s Career Education programs. In return, the state of California eventually will see an estimated $988.9 million in societal benefits, which include added student, business and Career Education-related income. The programs also create social savings, meaning the benefits that result from individual graduates having better health outcomes, lower rates of violent crime, and lower poverty rates.

“Career Education is essential for providing California businesses with the talent they need,” said Cuyamaca College’s Interim Dean of Career Education George Dowden. “The programs we offer help our regional economy and the state’s overall economy become more resilient – particularly as demand grows for workers with highly technical skills. The result is ultimately higher earnings for our students, and higher productivity for California businesses.”


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