Highline adds $631.5 million to King County economy

By James Jackson - Staff Reporter



A new study shows that Highline adds more than a half of a million dollars to the local economy.

The economic impact analysis shows Highline promoting economic growth in a number of ways. The college contributed to the local economy with the added income of $55.4 million from 977 jobs, including day-to-day operations, payroll and benefits.

Another $25.4 million came from international students, who account for 9 percent of Highline student population. Highline alumni have contributed $550.7 million with 7,347 jobs in the region, according to the Analysis of the Return on Investment and Economic Impact of Education Study.

"EMSI has been doing these economic impact studies primarily for colleges and universities both domestically and internationally," said Dr. Lisa Skari vice, president of Institutional Advancement.

The study was conducted by Economic Modeling Specialist International (EMSI), an independent research company that specializes in economic impact studies for leaders in higher education. The research focused on two areas, an economic impact and investment analysis for the fiscal year of 2014-15.

 The research was originally commissioned by the State Board of Community and Technical colleges, said Dr. Skari.

"The State Board commissioned the study and Highline was then able to piggy back at a reduced rate of about $40,000," said Dr. Skari. 

They have done about 1,200 of these studies and have built a model using indicators and local data from census and bureau of labor management. The college then provides a spread sheet of data such as enrollment and other data points that are fed into the matrix, she said.

"This model has been used enough so that there is some reliability," Dr. Skari said. "This is actually the second time we've done it. We did the study back in 2010." 

This study's results are more focused on policy makers and funders. When the school is asking for money and support, whether it be student scholarships, capital projects or federal grants, we can use this data as a persuasive point to the different groups," said Dr. Skari

 "We find this very useful specifically when talking to legislators," said Dr. Skari. "So when you got a legislator that's looking at where they're going to spend their money and you can tell them for every $1 you spend were going to give you $4.30 back, it's far more compelling then saying we have amazing students who are doing amazing things." 

The legislators love the student stories, but when the school can tell them that it benefits the state with a return on its investment, that data is what actually resonates with legislators, said Dr. Skari.

The benefits to Washington of Highline as an educational institution are felt in two major ways. 

One is the increase to the state economic base from higher earnings. Two is increased business activity. 

There is a return on investment in education for the students. For every $1 spent on their education there is a $2.30 return on investment in the form of higher wages. In King County the difference between having a high school diploma and having an associate's degree is $11,800 in salary earnings a year, Dr. Skari said.

"The local businesses benefit from Highline. For every student buying food, coffee and other services in the area, the local municipalities are collecting sales tax," Dr. Skari said. "Because of the college being here more money is spent in the community." 

The economic impact of Highline plays out in social savings as well. With the higher quality of life that education provides, students and alumni are less likely to suffer from health and wellness issues, commit crimes, or be unemployed.

"The study takes into account the tax implications. The more education you get you tend to see healthier lifestyles, less crime, the less need for social services the less tax money spent on social services," said Dr. Skari

"Society benefits by having healthier employees. It's weird how they carve it apart and the same thing with criminal justice. Lower instance of crime lower insurance rates," said Dr. Skari. 

"It's a multiplier effect by the Highline being here there is more money drawn here and more money spent here," Dr. Skari said. "Eighty percent of students that graduate here are staying here."

The return for state and local taxpayers was significantly strong, with Highline returning more to the state than is costs to operate. For every $1 of public money invested, state taxpayers receive $4.70 over the student's working lives for an average yearly return of 15.6 percent. 

For every dollar invested in education at Highline by students, taxpayers or the college itself, an average of $9.80 in benefits will accrue to society in Washington.

In total during the 2014-15 fiscal year, Highline created $631.5 million in economic value for King County. For more about this study please go to www.highline.edu/economic-impact/ 

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