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Alabama’s community colleges pump $6.6 billion into state economy

Gadsden, Ala. — Students and alumni of colleges within the Alabama Community College System add $6.6 billion to Alabama’s economy, supporting one out of every 27 jobs in the state, according to an economic impact report released today. Gadsden State Community College is a part of the ACCS.

The independent, 102-page report by Lightcast estimates the ACCS’s economic impact represents about 2.7 percent of Alabama’s gross state product, which reflects 98,923 jobs in the state. Additionally, taxpayers see a net benefit of $1.1 billion in added tax revenue from students’ higher lifetime earnings and increased output to businesses.

“Our legacy centers on helping people develop the skills they need in order to build the framework of our state’s economy, and the data this report provides proves we are on a forward path of excellence in that pursuit,” said Jimmy Baker, ACCS chancellor. “The results of the analysis demonstrate that the ACCS is a strong investment for all three major stakeholder groups—students, taxpayers, and society,” according to the report. “…Students receive a great return for their investments in an education from the ACCS. At the same time, taxpayers’ investment in the ACCS returns more to government budgets than it costs and creates a wide range of social benefits throughout Alabama.”

Locally, Gadsden State received an economic impact report that states the College provided $207.9 million in added income during fiscal year 2021 to the service area, which covers Cherokee, Cleburne, Etowah, Calhoun and St. Clair counties.

“It is evident that a community college education has a positive return on investment for our students as well our entire community,” said Dr. Kathy Murphy, president of Gadsden State. “According to the new study, Gadsden State supports 3,555 jobs in the communities we serve.”

The annual impact of the increased earnings of Gadsden State alumni and the businesses they work for is $166.8 million or 2,854 jobs supported.

“We have a wonderful network of alumni who are testaments to our programs, our faculty and our staff,” she said. “The economic boost provided by those who have received a credential at Gadsden State is so impactful and so important to our area.”

Among the report’s additional highlights:

  • The activities of the ACCS colleges and its students support one out of every 27 jobs in Alabama. One out of every 41 jobs in the Gadsden State service area is supported by the activities of the College and Its students.
  • Gadsden State’s economic impact represents 1.9 percent of the region’s total gross regional product.
  • Gadsden State employs 538 full- and part-time employees. Payroll amounted to $29.3 million, much of which was spent in the region for groceries, mortgage and rent payments, dining out and other household expenses.
  • Gadsden State spent $23.1 million on day-to-day expenses related to facilities, supplies and professional services.
  • Local taxpayers provided Gadsden State with $26.5 million in funding in 2020-21. In return, they will benefit from added tax revenue, stemming from student’s higher lifetime earnings and increased business output amounting to $58 million. A reduced demand for government-funded services in Alabama will add another $4.7 million in benefits to taxpayers.
  • In 2020-21, Alabama invested $75.7 million to support Gadsden State. In turn, the Alabama economy will grow by $666.7 million over the course of students’ working lives. Society will also benefit from $16.5 million of public and private sector savings.
  • For every dollar invested in Gadsden State in 2020-21, people in Alabama will receive $9 in added income and social savings for as long as Gadsden State’s students from that time period remain active in the state workforce. The ACCS generates $7.40 for every dollar invested in ACCS, for as long as the colleges’ students from 2020-21 remain active in the state’s workforce.
  • The average associate degree graduate from Gadsden State will see an increase in earnings of $8,200 each year compared to someone with a high school diploma working in Alabama. That’s slightly higher than the state average of $7,900 a year.
  • In return for their investment in their education at Gadsden State, students from the 2020-21 fiscal year will receive a cumulative present value $207.7 million in increased earnings over their working lives. This translates to a return of $6.90 in higher future earnings for every dollar students invest in their education. Students’ average annual rate of return is 21.7 percent. Statewide, the annual rate of return is 22.1 percent.
  • The net impact of Gadsden State’s spending added $38.9 million in income to the area. Operations spending by all ACCS institutions added $535.8 million in income to the state economy.
  • Impact of daily spending by Gadsden State students attached to or retained in the region is $2.2 million in added income or 45 jobs supported.
  • As a result of the $1.8 billion invested by Alabama to support the ACCS, the economy will grow by $12.8 billion over the course of students’ working lives.

Murphy will review the findings of Gadsden State’s economic impact report during scheduled Town Hall meetings. She will also ask for feedback from community supporters that will be used in the development of a new strategic plan for Gadsden State.

The Town Hall meetings will be at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 23 in the Science Building on the East Broad Campus; at 6 p.m. Feb. 28 in Room 130 at Gadsden State Cherokee; and 5:30 p.m. March 2 in the Cheaha Center Lecture Hall on the Ayers Campus. All meetings are open to the public.

“It’s so important for our area to understand the data found in the impact report,” she said. “It’s also valuable that as the president of this institution I understand what is important to our community leaders, supporters, alumni, employees and students when it comes to our community college. We are here to serve our community and we want our strategic plan to reflect that.”

Lightcast developed the reports using data that included academic and financial reports from ACCS colleges as well as industry and employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Census Bureau. The full report can be found at Gadsden State’s report is at