Can colleges create prosperous communities?
Colleges and universities increasingly are viewed as engines of economic growth – and measured against their ability to fulfill that role. The trend is intimately bound up with the shift, in the United States and most other developed nations, toward a knowledge-based economy. Colleges and universities boost local economies by providing jobs, a spending stream for goods and services and a supply of skilled graduates. Experts say communities with universities are better able to pivot away from declining industries toward expanding ones, and many urban institutions are working with local partners to revitalize neighborhoods. Yet economists caution that some universities habitually oversell their economic impact. And critics say the institutions could be doing much more to combat poverty, improve public schools and increase the supply of affordable housing.
Here are some key takeaways:
Between 1950 and 2010, doubling the number of universities in a region was associated with a 4 percent increase in the region’s gross domestic product.
One study found that each new patent issued to a university increased local employment by 15 percent.
At the same time, U.S. college enrollment is declining, and a recent report said that one-third of all small and midsized colleges are in financial difficulty.
Resources for Further Study
Berman, Elizabeth Popp, “Creating the Market University: How Academic Science Became an Economic Engine,” Princeton University Press, 2012. A sociologist explores how the federal government encouraged academic science to make a dramatic move toward the market.
Dorn, Charles, “For the Common Good: A New History of Higher Education in America,” Cornell University Press, 2017. A Bowdoin College education professor traces the history of colleges and universities and their contributions to the common good.
Geiger, Roger L., “The History of American Higher Education: Learning and Culture From the Founding to World War II,” Princeton University Press, 2015. An expert on higher education examines its evolution from colonial times to World War II.
Davis, Bob, “There’s an Antidote to America’s Long Economic Malaise: College Towns,” The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 12, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/
Fischer, Karin, “Why Universities Alone Aren’t Going to Save Your Economy,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 6, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/
Herstik, Lauren, “U.S.C. Expands in a ‘Neglected’ Neighborhood, Promising Jobs and More,” The New York Times, Aug. 15, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/
Seltzer, Rick, “Healthier Than Imagined?” Inside Higher Ed, Aug. 14, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/
Wells, Carrie, “Maryland universities ramp up efforts to help students, faculty create companies,” The Washington Post, March 26, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/
Reports and Studies
Andes, Scott, et al., “Capturing the next economy: Pittsburgh’s rise as a global innovation city,” Brookings Institution, Sept. 2017, http://tinyurl.com/
Caulfield, Timothy, and Ubaka Ogbogu, “The commercialization of university-based research: Balancing risks and benefits,” BMC Medical Ethics, Oct. 14, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/
Christophersen, Kjell, Tim Nadreau and Aaron Olanie, “The Rights and Wrongs of Economic Impact Analysis for Colleges and Universities,” Emsi, Jan. 7, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/
DeVol, Ross, Joe Lee and Minoli Ratnatunga, “Concept to Commercialization: The Best Universities for Technology Transfer,” Milken Institute, April 2017, http://tinyurl.com/
Scrivener, Susan, et al., “Doubling Graduation Rates: Three-Year Effects of CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) for Developmental Education Students,” MDRC, February 2015, http://tinyurl.com/
The Next Step
Long, Katherine, “Washington’s Running Start program a national standout, study says,” The Seattle Times, Oct. 6, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/
Salgado, Juan, “When Community College Is Free,” The New York Times, Sept. 19, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/
Smith, Ashley A., “Free Impact on N.Y. Community Colleges,” Inside Higher Ed, Oct. 13, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/
Finegold, David, “Pittsburgh: A big college town full of creativity,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Oct. 13, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/
Scribner, Herb, “Is Provo one of the country’s best college towns? Yes, and here’s why,” Deseret News, Sept. 14, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/
Young, Aaron, “Report: Ames is one of the ‘best college towns’ in America,” The Des Moines Register, Sept. 19, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/
Krantz, Laura, “Increasingly, foreign students are choosing Canada over US,” Boston Globe, Sept. 16, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/
Schaffhauser, Dian, “U.S. Colleges Face Potential Loss of $250 Million from Drop in International Enrollments,” Campus Technology, May 15, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/
Tausche, Kayla, and Stephanie Dhue, “US business schools are struggling to recruit international candidates,” CNBC, Sept. 19, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/
University of California System
“UC campuses among the greenest in the country,” University of California, Aug. 28, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/
Lee, Steve, “UC San Diego unveils Mesa Nueva: One of the nation’s largest graduate housing communities,” LGBT Weekly, Sept. 24, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/
Leonard, James, “Economic impact of UC Merced rises to $2.6B,” University of California, Jan. 3, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/
Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities
1307 New York Ave., N.W., Suite 400, Washington, DC 20005
Association of 237 public research universities, land-grant institutions and affiliated organizations that advocates on their behalf.
Association of University Technology Managers
529 14th St., N.W., Suite 750, Washington, DC 20045
Association of more than 3,200 university technology managers that promotes the commercialization of university research.
1775 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20036
Public policy organization that conducts research on local, national and global issues, including local economic development.
Community College Research Center (Columbia University)
525 W. 120th St., New York, NY 10027
Research center that assess the problems and performance of community colleges.
Lincoln Institute of Land Policy
113 Brattle St., Cambridge, MA 02138
Foundation that researches and promotes policies for the effective use, taxation and stewardship of land.
1250 Fourth St., Santa Monica, CA 90401
Think tank that focuses on finance and the economy.
National Student Clearinghouse Research Center
2300 Dulles Station Blvd., Suite 300, Herndon, VA 20171
Research organization that collects and processes educational data.