Societal return of investment on higher eduation
May 9, 2016 7:42 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to look up stats on the return of investment for higher education on a social/societal level, vs an individual level.

This is for a document for my alumni association, primarily talking about how their investment in our next generation of students is part of a larger social legacy. I know to mention stuff like "it's super awesome when college student activists graduate without debt!" but I'm having a hard time articulating how that's great for both the student and society as a whole. I think numbers would help a little with that?
posted by spunweb to Education (4 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Most universities track their contribution to the city / region/ state as a public statistic. You could probably find historical precedents.
posted by parmanparman at 8:11 AM on May 9, 2016

State universities often file annual reports, and budgets, with their legislature, and often there is language and citation about the value they bring to the state. If you are not a state U, someone in your endowment department has some of this pulled together already. Talk to the staff person that coordinates with alumni as well-you won't have to re-invent the wheel. The state reports are likely publicly available.
posted by childofTethys at 9:18 AM on May 9, 2016

Economists have done a lot of work on the economic return to education. Here's a brief overview with a lot of references. As it mentions, "it is practically impossible to quantify the numerous nonmonetary returns."
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 10:00 AM on May 9, 2016

Excellent question, I love that you said 'societal return' and not just 'economic' or 'monetary' returns. Perfect stuff.

It's been covered above – hard to quantify / hard to measure, doubtless there's shit loads of value that just doesn't fit any nice proxy metrics. But hey, don't put it past the UK government to try to to measure it definitively. They're on a political path to full marketisation of HE (and FE and schools and everything else), so they're happy to try to come up with some figures. I just went over to WONKHE (pronounced 'wonky' - a wonk is a like a nerd, and HE is higher education) and simply searched 'returns', and got quite quickly to a report by/for the UK gov (and a think tank called London Economics) called 'The Returns To Higher Education' – there's a 7 page bullet-pointed executive summary from pp11-18, and there's an analysis of their results for Wonkhe by Dean Makin here. (I should add that I don't agree with this analysis, we can talk about that). But yeah, see above, I think the main point is already well made by Mr Know-it-some.
posted by Joeruckus at 10:41 AM on May 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

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