to Graduate from College
A University System Study
Confirms that Macon State and Other Georgia Public College Graduates
Add Millions to the Economy
Think of it as an investment.
Adicia Coody, 22, left, and Jennifer Lewis, 23, are
pursuing bachelor's degrees at Macon State College in part
because they know that more education will increase their
A new report on higher education in Georgia shows that the
"cost" of a college degree is really an investment - one that yields
returns for both the graduates and their communities.
The report was commissioned by the University System of
Georgia's Intellectual Capital Partnership Program (ICAPP) and
conducted by Georgia Tech researchers. They analyzed the
earnings of nearly 90,000 University System students who graduated
between 1993 and 1997 and found that for 1998 (the most recent year
complete data was available) the increased earnings resulting from
their college degrees added $1.25 billion to Georgia's economy, in
just that year alone.
Central Georgia shared in those dividends. The higher
salaries earned by University System graduates who lived in Bibb and
Houston counties translated into an economic impact of nearly $43
million - the highest in Georgia outside of metro Atlanta.
Impressive as that figure is, it does not include the effect of
Macon State's seven baccalaureate programs introduced since 1997.
The graduates of those programs will add significantly to Central
Georgia's impact in future studies.
"Does a college degree pay off financially? Absolutely,"
said Dr. David A. Bell, Macon State's president. "This study
indicates that graduates of Macon State and other University System
schools will earn, over a lifetime, significantly more than workers
without college degrees. Since most Macon State graduates
remain in Central Georgia, that is a huge economic impact on this
The researchers found that recent associate degree graduates of
Macon State earned, on average, nearly $8,000 more in 1998 than
those with no education beyond high school.
They also confirmed, however, that average annual earnings
increase as education increases. While an associate degree can
boost earnings by 16 percent, a bachelor's degree can increase them
by 34 percent, a master's degree by 40 percent, a doctoral degree by
46 percent and a professional degree, such as a medical or law
degree, by 51 percent.
The study confirms that the economic value of college graduates
is one of the huge, but hidden, drivers of economic growth,
according to Bill Drummond, a professor in Georgia Tech's City
and Regional Planning Program and one of the collaborators on the
"Georgia benefits from the University System in many ways,
including the production of an educated labor force, the generation
of new knowledge through research, the creation and expansion of
businesses, and - perhaps the most important in a democracy - the
development of educated and responsible citizens," Drummond said in
a University System press release. "But this study has shown
that one factor alone - the direct economic impact of University
System graduates - more than justifies Georgia's investment in
To students in Macon State's bachelor's degree programs, it also
justifies their personal investment.
Adicia Coody, 22, graduated from Northside High School in Warner
Robins with very little idea of what career she wanted to pursue.
She only knew that she wanted to go to college.
Growing up, Coody had become aware of the different standards of
living that surrounded her and of her own family's position in the
spectrum. Her father, no doubt sensing an opportunity, was not
shy about telling her that the differences were due to higher levels
of education in other families.
"I'm the first in my family to go to college," she said.
"My dad was the driving force. He told me I had to go to live
like I wanted to live."
So she enrolled at Macon State, focused on reaching a certain
standard of living and trusting that she would find her niche.
She found it in her first accounting class.
"I enjoyed it," Coody said. "I liked the structure and the
challenge of (managing) numbers according to specific rules."
Last August, Coody earned the first college degree in her family
- an associate of science in business. She is now a junior in
Macon State's bachelor of science in business, majoring in
accounting. Her plans include becoming a Certified Public
Accountant and earning an MBA.
Kelly Kernich, center, a career specialist with Macon State
College's Counseling and Career Center, reviews the final
points of putting together a resume with students Curtis Swint,
22, and Konnie Billups, 31. Putting their degrees to
work is a high priority for Macon State students.
She considers herself fortunate to have found the best of both
worlds. "Accounting interests me," she said. "the money
will be an added bonus."
Jennifer Lewis is a 23 - year old senior in Macon State's
bachelor of science in information technology program. Like
Coody, she is the first in her family to go to college. Unlike
Coody, however, she found her niche while still a student at Central
Fellowship Christian Academy.
"I knew that college graduates made more money," Lewis said,
"and I always wanted to go to college for that reason. Once I
took some computer courses in high school, though, I had a second
motivation. I knew what I wanted to do."
Coody and Lewis are already applying their new knowledge in the
region. Coody is doing elementary accounting as payroll
administrator at her family's business - BikeTech, Inc. in Warner
Robins. Lewis developed and maintained a proprietary database
in Warner Robins. The database will eventually be accessible
to users through the Internet.
Both Coody and Lewis would like to remain in Central Georgia
after graduation as well. "This is home," Coody said.
Lewis, whose family lives in Byron, agreed. After graduating
with her bachelor's degree in information technology in May, she
plans to enroll in a graduate program and work full - time in the IT
field, both in this area.
Their ties to Central Georgia are typical of most students in
Macon State's baccalaureate programs, so the economic value of their
degrees will remain here as well. And that's an investment
promising great returns.
Gail Pollock is contracts and grants writer at
Macon State College
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