Think Again – about the value of a community college education!

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As consumers, we are faced with decisions that impact our immediate surroundings, daily activities and long-term abilities. Those decisions could be in what we purchase, what we believe, what actions we take or any combination of those things.  We, as people, place a subjective or objective value on everything we do, and that provides the cause and effect of our decisions.

At Mountwest Community & Technical College, everything we do is focused on our students, our community and our stakeholders realizing the increased value of Mountwest. Traditionally, the value of a community college has not been perceived as high as a four-year institution.  It’s time to Think Again.

Community colleges, particularly Mountwest Community & Technical College, provide value in multiple ways.  Students gain education and workforce skills that heighten their earning potential.  These students provide measurable economic and social impact to a community, a government, industry and tax basis through numerous avenues. Additionally, the exponential effect of a community college through growth in related industries and vendor/client relationships is incredibly positive.  It’s time to Think Again.

The recent recession and recovery have caused enrollment at many community colleges to soar as unemployed workers retrain for new occupations and students who might otherwise attend a four-year college choose to save money. The importance of community colleges is likely to rise even further as the economy continues to evolve and industries demand workers with new skills.

Labor market projections over the next decade suggest that new jobs in our region will be filled more by workers with an associate degree or some college than by those with any other type of education. In the short run, with state and local government funding still falling, many community colleges are challenged to educate a growing number of students. In the long run, evolving industries will likely further challenge community colleges to produce even more workers with newer skills.

The role of community colleges has grown over the years as they have broadened their range of educational offerings to satisfy a greater and more diverse group of students. Today, community colleges provide an opportunity for high school students to earn college credit, a place to obtain a vocational skill, to earn certification or other training for a career change and to develop life skills.

Additionally, community colleges like Mountwest have created unique and beneficial partnerships where students from all walks of life can begin their educational career at Mountwest for their first two or even three years and then, transfer to a partnered four-year institution where they can finish their bachelor’s program tract.  This transfer studies tract is a specialty of Mountwest and provides students with the ability to save significant money on their core studies and still receive the quality, affordable education they need to move forward in their studies and careers.

By offering a wide variety of courses ranging from single classes to two-year programs, community colleges offer students a variety of benefits. Perhaps the most common reason that students attend community colleges is to increase their earnings potential. In general, when controlling for differences in background and ability, individuals with more education tend to earn higher wages. A number of studies have found that completing 30 credits (or one full-time year) leads to increases in wages of 5 to 11 percent. Individuals with an associate degree earn between 20 and 30 percent more than their high-school-only counterparts. In contrast, students with 12 college credits or less earn less than 5 percent more than those who only complete high school, and often there is no wage premium at all.

Graduates of community colleges find employment at varying levels in virtually every industry. For example, in the healthcare industry, more than 15 percent of workers have an associate degree, and an additional 23 percent have some college.* These workers include dental laboratory technicians, pharmacy technicians, respiratory therapists and physical therapist assistants.

The financial, retail trade and wholesale trade industries also rely heavily on workers trained at community colleges. More than 30 percent of workers in these industries have either an associate degree or some college. While not required for positions such as bank teller or sales associate, an associate degree is often necessary for advancing to better paying management positions.


Community colleges contribute to economic growth in both direct and indirect ways. Direct benefits arise when the colleges train first-time workers and give existing workers the skills they need for a new career, thus increasing the productivity of the local workforce. Community colleges also directly boost local economic development by providing local jobs and infrastructure benefits that are especially important to rural towns.

By increasing the productivity of the local workforce, community colleges help add to the total earnings of the community, which creates indirect local benefits. For example, more earnings can generate additional tax revenue. In addition, researchers have found that more educated citizens, who also tend to have more income, give more to charity, participate more in civic duties, rely less on public support, are less likely to be unemployed and are less likely to be incarcerated. Such benefits create communities where skilled workers and good employers want to locate.

Mountwest engaged Economic Modeling Specialists, International in a scientific economic impact study of the college and its stakeholders. The results of this study show that America’s community colleges have a significant positive impact on the national economy, and Mountwest has a significant impact on our regional economy.  The numbers showcased in this section provide a historical benchmark as Mountwest continues to grow and flourish.

The Student Perspective

Education Will Pay You Back – For a Lifetime

• Over the course of his or her working career, the average Mountwest student’s lifetime earnings will increase $7.90 for every dollar invested in their Mountwest education (in the form of tuition, fees and forgone earnings).

• The average annual income of the typical associate degree graduate in the Mountwest  Service Area at the midpoint of his or her career is $41,200, 36% more than someone with a high school diploma.

• Over the course of a working lifetime, associate degree graduates in the Mountwest Service Area earn $388,800 more than someone with a high school diploma (undiscounted).

Education is Your Ticket to a Better Job

• By 2020 it is anticipated that there will be about 24,200 new and replacement jobs available in the Mountwest Service Area.

• About 27% of these jobs will require an education level equal to an associate degree or greater.

• Another 7% of available jobs in 2020 will require some kind of post-secondary certificate or vocational award.

The Taxpayer Perspective

Mountwest leverages taxpayer dollars  

• An estimated 95% of Mountwest students remain in West Virginia and contribute to economic growth. Students who enter the workforce expand the tax base by generating higher earnings and reducing social costs.

• Higher earnings of Mountwest students and associated increases in state income expand the tax base in West Virginia by about $7.1 million each year.


Mountwest generates a return on public investment

• State and local governments allocated about $7.3 million in support of Mountwest  in support of FY 2009-2010.

• State and local governments will receive a rate of return of 7.4% on their investments in Mountwest.

Mountwest Community & Technical College continues to create value in many ways. With a wide range of program offerings, Mountwest plays a key role in helping students achieve their individual potential and develop the skills they need in order to have a fulfilling and prosperous career. Mountwest also provides an excellent environment for students to meet new people and make friends, while participation in college courses improves students’ self-confidence and promotes their mental health. These social and employment-related benefits have a positive influence on the health and well-being of individuals.

The college’s program offerings support a range of industry sectors in the U.S. and supply employers with the skilled workers they need to make their businesses more productive. The expenditures of the colleges and their international students further support the national economy through the output and employment generated by businesses.  The value of community colleges in the United States is growing.  The value of Mountwest Community & Technical College is outstanding. Think Again.

* The category “some college” includes individuals who have attended college, not necessarily community colleges, for any time period but have not received an associate or bachelor’s degree.




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