Tuesday, December 21, 2010

It All Revolves Around Economics

When I was in college, it took me a long time to decide what to major in.  I started thinking about Psychology; next considered Philosophy; and ultimately settled on Economics.  Actually there were a few more disciplines along the way that I considered.  When I encountered a terrific teacher, that swayed me toward a particular major and, not surprisingly, when the faculty member was the opposite, my reaction was also the opposite.  What finally convinced me, and it is still true today, is that I found my passion in economics, and I remain convinced that Economics is the key factor in many of the formidable problems that our country and our globe are continuously confronting.

As an economist and as a long time educator, I often dwell on the economic benefits of education, especially higher education, that accrue to the person being educated.  The data is compelling and clearly demonstrates that in terms of benefits to the person and benefits to society, education matters a great deal.  Not surprising to me at all, and I’m convinced we aren’t even capturing all the benefits that education provides to the person and to society.

But there is another economic benefit of education and higher education that we also need to acknowledge.  That benefit is the contribution that schools make to the local, state, and national economy.  For example, at the end of last week, New York’s Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities (CICU) released their annual calculation of the economic impact of New York’s independent higher education sector.  New York’s 100+ independent colleges and universities contributed $54.3 billion to NY State’s economy.  The CICU study also noted that NY’s private colleges and universities provided on-campus employment for 174,000 people.  For Long Island, where Hofstra is located, the overall private college impact is $2.8 billion with more than 22,600 jobs.  Hofstra alone provides over 2,700 of these jobs.  How known is it and how appreciated is it that private higher education is one of the engines that drives New York State’s and Long Island’s economy?

These numbers reflect only one important sector of education in one state.  Add to these numbers the national dollar  impact of k-12 public education as well as public higher education, and you start to approach the major magnitude of our education industry.  And remember, that we are a clean and relatively green industry so our impact on the environment is another plus.  And we are often a cultural center for the communities in which we are located, which is still another plus.  And I could go on and on.  And once again, how known is it and how appreciated is it that education is a key engine for our national economy?

The conclusion is clear.  The benefits of education, economic and otherwise, surround all levels of education and all facets of education.  In this holiday season, as in all the other times of the year, education is truly the gift that keeps giving. Happy Holidays.

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