North Carolina Community Colleges bring Big Return on Investment – State Leaders and Advocates Agree

North Carolina Community Colleges bring Big Return on Investment – State Leaders and Advocates Agree

Wednesday, April 20, 2022 - 11:47am

RALEIGH, NC - A new, in-depth economic impact analysis found North Carolina’s 58 Community Colleges have a $19 billion annual impact on the state’s economy - supporting more than 320,000 jobs or one out of every 19 jobs across the state.


“The Community College System serves over half a million students each year and fuels North Carolina’s job engine,” said Thomas Stith, president, N.C. Community College System. “Our strong partnerships with business and industry in our communities and around the globe are creating a demand for our community colleges to provide the unique and skilled workforce needed, and we are leading economic recovery efforts in North Carolina.”

The economic impact study found for every dollar the state invests in North Carolina’s Community Colleges, the state gains $7.50 in added incomes and social savings. The colleges generate nearly double the revenue from what they take in from the taxpayers. For every $1 the state invests, taxpayers get $1.90 back in added tax revenues and public sector savings.

“We’re pleased the reports so clearly quantify and demonstrate the major economic impact North Carolina’s 58 community colleges, faculty, students, and alumni have in each of their respective areas,“ said Dr. Mark Poarch, president, Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute, and the current President of the N.C. Association of Community College Presidents. “Our colleges offer a big return on investment for students and employers, policymakers and taxpayers. We are grateful for the continued confidence in what we do and for continued commitment to making smart investments in our state.”

With support from the North Carolina General Assembly, leaders from the N.C. Association of Community College Presidents, N.C. Community Colleges, the Center for Applied Research, N.C. State’s Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research, and the John M. Belk Endowment formed to collaborate with national research leader Emsi Burning Glass to produce a regional Economic Impact Study for each of the state’s 58 community colleges, as well as the overall statewide report.

“It’s been a privilege to have worked and supported our education partners on this study from the beginning as I was confident the results would blow us away. And it did. I think it’s fair to say not many government-funded programs generate more revenue than they take in from taxpayers,” said State Senator Deanna Ballard, chair of the Senate Education Committee. “It’s critical that our high school graduates and adults looking to gain new skills take advantage of the incredible opportunities that their local community college provides.”

Community college graduates have higher incomes that contribute to a larger tax base and a growing state. Students who graduate with an associate’s degree from a N.C. community college will see an increase in earnings of up to $7,000 or more each year compared to a person with a high school diploma or equivalent. If the student builds upon their associate’s degree to then earn a bachelor’s degree, their annual income also doubles on average.

“Our community colleges are among the state’s most critical assets to leverage and accelerate the education and upskilling of our State’s homegrown talent,” said MC Belk Pilon, president and board chair, John M. Belk Endowment. “As we look ahead, we must continue and accelerate investments in our 58 community colleges to ensure we increase access to economic mobility, prepare North Carolinians for the jobs of today and tomorrow, and further grow local and state economies.”

The report also assesses the economic impact of five programs that each college offers on the area economy, the return on investment for students, and the benefits generated for N.C. taxpayers.

More information can be found at including the full state report, as well as fact sheets, program-specific studies, and summaries for each of North Carolina’s 58 community colleges.

North Carolina’s 58 Community Colleges have a $19 billion annual impact on the state’s economy.