CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WMBD) — A new report found community colleges across Illinois are boosting local economies, and it’s happening here in central Illinois, too.
The Illinois Community College Board’s Economic Impacts and Student Employment Outcomes Report found a $3.5 billion impact statewide and more than 43,000 jobs.
“If people are looking to advance and find a better opportunity, a community college is a great place to start,” said Steve Fast, the Director of Public Information at Heartland Community College.
Community colleges offer resources and training to students across the state.
“Community colleges exist to meet the needs of the communities they serve by providing individuals with access to high quality, affordable educational opportunities,” said Lazaro Lopez, the chair for the Illinois Community College Board.
The study also finds an average annual rate of return for students is nearly 27%.
“This study confirms that community college graduates are in demand by business and industry across the state,” said Brian Durham, the Executive Director for the Illinois Community College Board.
Fast said this report isn’t surprising.
“We’re here to contribute not only to the benefit of the educational opportunity in the area for everyone but also to work with our communities to build a ready workforce,” said Fast.
Dr. Sheila Quirk-Baily, the president of Illinois Centra College, said the study confirms the impact on people who attend community college.
“In the greater Peoria region, we know only 40% of adults have a post-secondary credential, while 60% of jobs require a credential past high school. At Illinois Central College, we work diligently to help our community and individuals reach their goals. When adults earn post-secondary credentials, it not only changes the trajectory of their lives, but also the lives of their families, while growing the workforce, expanding businesses, and creating a more vibrant regional economy,” said ICC President Dr. Sheila Quirk-Bailey.
Fast said there’s high demand for workers in fields like agriculture, health sciences, industrial technology, and more. After 2020, enrollment at Heartland is up, too.
“This fall, we have returned to more or less pre-pandemic numbers when it comes to a headcount enrollment,” said Fast.
He said in the school’s district, which covers McLean, Logan, and Livingston counties, there is a $45 million impact, including hundreds of employees, and job opportunities for graduates.
“Community college presents a great return on investment, not only for students but for the community,” said Fast.
He said it can lead to better jobs and higher salaries, impacting the places people live.