Winter 2005 CONNECTION Explores Economic Impact of New England Colleges and Universities

BOSTON—Beyond their $20 billion in direct expenditures, New England colleges and universities power the regional economy by nurturing technology transfer in cutting-edge fields, educating the skilled workforce sought after by high-wage employers and rejuvenating urban and rural communities, according to the Winter 2005 issue of Connection: The Journal of the New England Board of Higher Education.

The Winter issue of Connection features hard-hitting articles about a variety of ways that higher education institutions impact the economy.

“The money that higher education institutions and their workers and students spend on goods and services—ranging from pizzas to glistening new campus centers to lifesaving research—reverberates through the economy, creating an economic impact that far exceeds the costs of keeping college property off the tax rolls or, in the case of public campuses, the meager investment New England states make in their operating budgets,” writes Connection Executive Editor John O. Harney.

Connection is the journal of the nonprofit New England Board of Higher Education—and America’s only regional journal on higher education and the economy.

Among articles in the Winter 2005 Connection:

Sharing University Intellectual Capital • New England’s research universities are well-recognized for their undergraduate and graduate education and tech transfer. But another one of their powerful economic impacts is often overlooked: their role as providers of continuing education. Hugh O’Neill, president of New York City-based Appleseed Inc., a firm that conducts higher education impact studies, writes: “Research universities often bring to this market a variety of resources that other providers may not be able to match: access to libraries, laboratories and a wide array of on-line resources; the ability to link career-oriented courses to cutting-edge research in fields like biotechnology and computer science; opportunities to transition from undergraduate to graduate-level programs; and a different set of connections into the job market.”

Pomp and Whine: Can College Towns Keep the Sims Happy? • As a world-class center of scientific research, Cambridge, Mass., has enjoyed lots of economic benefits. But all the positive effects of the strong spinoff economy can also spin out of control, sending housing costs soaring beyond the reach of long-time residents, pushing out locally owned retail businesses and creating choking traffic jams. Former Cambridge City Councilor Kathleen Born explains how college-town benefits can boomerang.

Home Remedies • Connection looks at how New England colleges and universities are building dorms, refurbishing rundown buildings, helping faculty buy homes and otherwise working to ease the variety of housing woes that threaten the region’s competitiveness.

Comic Relief for White River Junction • When graphic novelist James Sturm decided to start a college for cartoonists in Vermont, he knew he would be tapping into an unprecedented excitement about graphic novels in the literary, publishing and art worlds. He didn’t know he’d also be tapping into tremendous energy around New England’s so-called “Creative Economy.” His plan for the Center for Cartoon Studies could animate sleepy White River Junction, Vt.

The Economic Impact of Educational Opportunity • Nellie Mae Education Foundation President Blenda J. Wilson reminds New Englanders of the single most important economic benefit colleges have to offer: turning a high school graduate or potential dropout into a college-educated citizen. “College graduates who earn more, also put more money back into the economy,” writes Wilson. “They pay more taxes and are less likely to be out of work. They live healthier lives, thereby costing society less in health care costs. … They help create more harmonious workplaces because they are more likely to be tolerant of people who are different from themselves.” There’s also a way to strengthen that impact, according to Wilson: expand need-based student aid so more students, especially those who have been traditionally underserved, can afford higher education.

A Better Yardstick? • The typical college student no longer begins college as a freshman one fall and then moves along a single-lane highway to a degree, Many now enroll for the first-time in some other part of the year, perhaps attend part-time, transfer to another school, pursue dual enrollment and earn some credits online. Yet campus policies and graduation rate data are stuck in the old model. Estela López, Alan Sturtz and Germán Bermúdez of the Connecticut State University System examine the dangers of putting too much stock in graduation rates in the new age of swirling students.

Guided by Voices? • The Futures Project at Brown University conducted focus groups with students of color, first-generation college students and low-income students to hear in their own voices how well- or ill-served they are by such factors as campus climate, finances, academic advising and outreach programs. The conversations bring the discussion about higher education access and attainment from the theory-based level where it is usually carried on, back down to earth—focused solely on what students had to say. Jamie E. Scurry of the Futures Project at Brown University relates their disturbing stories.

Co-Sourcing Legal Resources: The First Thing We Do, Let’s Share All the Lawyers? • With the prices of legal services and the financial consequences of legal missteps growing sharply, small and mid-sized colleges and universities would do well to share legal services, right? Not necessarily, according to a recent study by the Boston Consortium for Higher Education. Attorney John J. Smith of Washington, D.C., and Georgetown, Maine, explains why sharing lawyers may be fraught with practical and ethical difficulties for colleges.

Books • Sharon Singleton of the New England Resource Center for Higher Education reviews Academic Capitalism and the New Economy by Sheila Slaughter and Gary Rhoades. Former Bentley College President and Lesley University Education Dean Joseph M. Cronin reviews An Entrepreneurial University: The Transformation of Tufts 1976-2002.


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