Chairmen, what about an editorial? Given local economic development challenges and good news on the local community college level, one would think that our General Assembly Education Chairs in Rep. Mark White and Sen. Brian Kelsey might locally advocate for career technical education (CTE) and community colleges.
But not so fast. White and Kelsey are busy leading the charge on banning critical race theory, phonics and parental choice for masks. At the same time, there is good news on the workforce development front and no one is talking about it, all while the University of Memphis (UofM) hogs the discourse from within the the press corps and their Greater Memphis Chamber perch.
Here is the good news, per a State Collaborative of Reforming Education (SCORE) report, Southwest Community College graduate annual wages have surpassed those of the University of Memphis for Black and Economically Disadvantaged students (as measured through Pell grant eligibility), respectively by $844 and $654. (See above table, where TCAT Memphis was adjusted based on only statewide TCAT data in the report)
Sad thing is, with the UofM dominating the discourse and seemingly the discretionary local funding agenda, Memphians are ignorant of the community college value proposition. So here it is.
Given local wage data, with 2 or even 3 years less in technical college versus a university, it would take students 12 to 14 yrs to breakeven pursing a 4 yr UofM Bachelors degree versus getting a 2 yr Associates degree or less and going to work ! This conclusion was drawn, using a generous analysis, by assuming, no further education, 4% annual wage increases for 4 yr degrees and 2% for less than a 4 yr Bachelor degree.
And the former analysis does not include any consideration of extra out of pocket expenditures that come with attending a 4 yr university. This blog is not against 4 yr or more degrees. After all, I have a UofM Bachelors and Masters degree from elsewhere. But this blog is against not educating taxpayers on the publicly funded community college value proposition. So with that, lets get the word out with even more good economic development news…..
The Best News
The news could not get any better on this “real” economic development data point. Median annual wages for Southwest economically disadvantaged students (as defined by Pell Grant eligibility) have surpassed those at the University of Memphis by $654. This 28% increase from $35,095 in 2017 to $44,946 in 2019, leads the state and the community college state average by a whopping 23%. Its not even close and no one is talking about it !!!
The CTE and community college story remains untold in Memphis. This untold story accommodates the CTE concentrator rate in Shelby County Schools (SCS) imploding from a miserable 24% in 2016 to an absurd 12% in 2019. With SCS having 80 CTE partners, to include the Chamber and UofM, how can this even happen ? Its like the 80 partners intentionally told SCS students not to enroll in CTE. This is absurd by any measure !
The tragedy here is that CTE is often the pipeline that fuels technical and community college, and local economic development efforts for that matter. So much for accelerating wage increases for the economically disadvantaged in Memphis.
For whatever reason, so many dwell on, Bachelors degrees for economic development. What about community college and CTE? Lets take a look.
Local economic development policymakers should look to increase predictability when making public investments. Given the former, community and tech colleges provide predictability when it comes to public economic development. Here is why.
A 2016 Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) report on post graduation migration proves that Tennessee community college graduates are more likely to stay put in Tennessee than university graduates. To that extent, 87.6% of Southwest Community College (SWCC) graduates stay in Tennessee, compared with 78.7% from the University of Memphis (UofM).
This finding corresponds with the known fact that universities are common ground for remote corporate recruitment. Of those that stay in Tennessee, as shown in the above table, 70.7% SWCC are engaged full time in Tennessee, compared with 64.7% for the UofM.
Using this data from the report and externally calculated, a productivity calculation of post graduates results of 61.9% from SWCC and 50.9% from the UofM. That is 61.9% of SWCC graduates are engaged full time in Tennessee, compared to 50.9% from the UofM.
To this extent, Tennessee public workforce development investments in community colleges are more reliable than universities, due to the post graduation migration patterns of former community college and university students. This is not to say investments in public universities should be abandoned. But it is to say that public investments in community colleges are more predictable when it comes to economic and workforce development.
With a greater knowledge of post graduate migration patterns, the above findings can now be extended to interstate peer city economic development measurement, to help determine economic development variable predictability.
The below table was constructed, while ranking the Brookings/Chamber 10 selected cities across these data categories: 2019 less than and greater than Bachelors degree completions per 1k population and 2010-19 total wage and population percentage growth.
Reduction to post secondary completions in Indianapolis and St Louis were made, based on Indianapolis hosted statewide completion aggregation for Ivy Tech, Purdue Global online and Webster University in St Louis, with locations throughout the country.
The 10 counties of the peer cities were then ranked for each category of population growth, Associates or less and Bachelor or above per 1K population. Rankings were then compared versus their actual total wage growth ranking. The absolute value of the variability between category rankings and total wage growth were then recorded for each city and averaged for each category.
As expected, population growth rankings was a predictable determinant influencing total wage growth. But so was the Associates and less per 1k ranking. In fact, surprisingly in this peer ranking analysis, Associates or less completion rankings were as reliable at predicting total wage growth rankings as was population growth rankings. The average variance for population and Associates compared with total wage growth was 2.2 while Bachelors was 3.6. For predictability, the lower the variability the better.
In the table above, on the right side variance groupings, a zero variance is good. In fact, the Associate ranking accurately predicted the total wage growth ranking for 4 of the 10 peer cities. Overall, this makes sense for local public economic development investments, while referring to our prior THEC finding, as community college students are untypical targets for remote corporate recruitment, making community and tech college populations more locally economically predictable, due to decreased migration.
To give a couple examples of the power of Associates completions, Louisville with #6 ranking and arguably a sluggish 3.4% 2010-19 population growth rate, ranked #5 in Bachelors attainment, #2 in Associate completions per 1k population, and #2 in total wage growth at 46.6%. Another is Oklahoma City that ranked #1 in population, #7 in Bachelors, #3 in Associates and #3 in total wage growth at 42.7%.
Memphis Shelby ranked #7 in population, #9 in Bachelors, #9 in Associates and #8 in total wage growth. The former would not be good in any circumstance, but is made more painful by the educational disinvestment that has come, as a result of excessive corporate/real estate tax incentives in Memphis/Shelby County.
All of this to say, given local economic development challenges, discretionary local public investments in UofM tennis courts and swimming pools, public parking garages and EXCESSIVE tax incentives, just should not be happening, AT ALL.
Questions on this analysis email me at email@example.com
The facts are clear. Local economic development investments in public education and community tech colleges are reliable. If this ranking analysis is not enough, the above chart from Dr. Timothy Bartik’s research, further confirms the findings of the rankings analysis in this blog.
Bartik’s Brooking’s featured research, is the very research the UofM and Chamber won’t discuss. The former occurs, as local workforce development is systemically botched from the top and Memphians remain ignorant of the CTE and technical college value proposition.
Nobody in Memphis, including White and Kelsey are talking about CTE and technical college. This reality helps explain slow economic growth as opposed to the lack of a consolidated government……