Carl H. Lindner College of BusinessCarl H. Lindner College of BusinessUniversity of Cincinnati

Carl H. Lindner College of Business

Quality Education Yields Big Returns

Submitted: 1/5/2010 12:37:47
  • A recent column, contributed to the Cincinnati Enquirer by George Vredeveld, Director of UC's Economics Center for Education & Research, discussed the dynamics between education and economic development. The importance of collaboration among leaders in education, business and government is needed to improve workforce development efforts and to gain broad public support for local schools.

    "The Region's Economy" economic development columns are published in the Business Section of the Enquirer the first Sunday of each month. For past articles, visit http://www.economicscenter.org/research/enquirerarticles

January 3, 2010

As we begin a new year, it seems appropriate to reflect on lessons learned about our economy, some of which relate to the role of education. The dynamics between education and the economy can be easily understood and very powerful at the same time. The most important and obvious relationship is that investment in education yields high economic returns. Quality education is intricately linked to economic growth and prosperity. Second, a qualified workforce is increasingly important (especially in developed countries like the U.S.) and stimulates economic development. Recently, informed observers of education and workforce development have seen that collaboration among leaders in education, business, and government will improve workforce development and broad public support will enhance those results.

With these lessons in mind, the Economics Center for Education & Research and the Institute for Policy Research (both at the University of Cincinnati) surveyed residents in one local county to gain their perspective of the connections among education, economic growth, and workforce development. We learned that there is overwhelming recognition among the public that education improves the quality of life and usually leads to more satisfying and higher-paying jobs. A vast majority of those polled recognized education's role in community development and agreed that: "A quality public school district is one of the most important ways a community can attract new businesses and create jobs."

The residents' assessment of the importance of education was off-set by the evaluation of their schools' performance. While a strong majority of those surveyed believed it was "very important" that their local schools adequately prepare students for a successful career, only a minority of the respondents agreed that their school district accomplished this task. While this negative perception of schools should be taken very seriously, it could be partially due to a lack of information residents have about their local schools. Most of the respondents said they did not have good information about what the schools are doing. Those who indicated that they did know "quite a lot" were more positive about their district and its performance.

Meaningful collaboration between schools and the community also received strong support. Most of those surveyed agreed with the statement: "A good way to improve schools is to develop partnerships between schools and businesses to teach students job skills." Collaboration is a win-win opportunity; students are better prepared for the workplace and the community becomes more competitive while increasing its knowledge and support of the schools.

However, effective collaboration between the business community, locally elected leaders and the schools has been hard to come by. Relative to its importance, there are only a few notable examples in our region. In most instances we have not internalize the lessons on the effects of education on economic development; we have not taken the steps to create strong school-community collaboration. We would do well as citizens of this region to bring together educators and community, civic and business leaders in order to seize the opportunities before us. This will benefit our graduating students and strengthen the competitiveness of our region.

What an appropriate time for this to be our region's New Year's resolution.