By Christian Munson
Last week, we tapped the economic recovery brakes big time.
Unemployment ticked up to 9.1 percent. Manufacturing stalled, home prices slumped and Congressman Anthony Weiner reaffirmed the public’s confidence in our elected leadership when he tweeted his own stimulus package.
As recovery screeched, however, one of my colleagues pointed me to a recent survey from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (one of our firm’s clients) that indicates not everyone sees doom and gloom at the next exit.
AASCU represents nearly 420 public colleges and universities around the country in communities large and small. Member institutions, such as the University of Central Florida, Wayne State College in Nebraska and Eastern Oregon University, share a “learning- and teaching-centered culture” dedicated to providing access and opportunity to underserved student populations. For the most part, they are not national research or football powerhouses, but they’re critical growth engines in the communities they serve – providing jobs, developing workforce skills and advancing local economies.
Their presidents are voicing some optimism.
Sixty percent of college presidents surveyed said they expect to see job growth within the community served by their institution over the next 12 months, and 63 percent believe their regional economies also will see growth.
AASCU institutions also are often strong shelters from economic storms. Seventy-one percent of presidents surveyed said their institution was among their community’s top five employers (84 percent said they were among the top 10). And, based on their schools’ economic impact statements, AASCU presidents report an average local dollar impact of more than $533 million.
And behind the immediate swirl of current economic data, AASCU institutions are making contributions to tomorrow’s economic wellbeing. Ninety percent of presidents report that their school provides training and educational opportunities to community residents who are not necessarily traditional students, helping local people learn new skills and pursue new options. Ninety-six percent of presidents report taking roles to improve K-12 educational infrastructure and student outcomes within their communities.
For a PR guy dialed into national headlines, reviewing AASCU’s findings last week was refreshing. Many college presidents are expressing optimism, and they are seeing to it that their institutions play a leading role in moving their local communities forward.
More power to them.
Anyone else see rays of light out there? Gene Marks over at Forbes doesn’t think things are as bad as they may seem. What about you?
For more on the AASCU survey, click here.
Photo credit: Rick Monk via Flickr