Investing in education pays big returns
University graduates are job creators, innovators, magnets for talent, and they are engaged citizens.
Given that the budget is scheduled to come down at the end of the month, it is not surprising that all expenditures by the province are being put under the microscope. However, in our zeal to cut spending, let’s not forget the return on our investment; it doesn’t make sense to cut in areas where we get back more than we put in. University education is one of those cases.
The data are clear: Students, both undergraduate and graduate, are key to the prosperity of our province in the current and future knowledge-based economy. Encouraging and supporting them makes good economic, social, and cultural sense.
Students contribute substantially to the economy of the country and province. The Conference Board of Canada estimates that “every dollar spent on PSE [postsecondary education] creates $1.36 of economic value added (or output) in the Canadian economy” . In 2014, international students added a staggering $11.4 billion to Canada’s economy as a whole ($1 billion of that in personal income tax) and spent $48.2 million in this province alone . That translates into $3.7 million in direct personal tax revenue in Newfoundland and Labrador and $5.1 million in indirect tax revenue such as sales and insurance tax.
Post-graduate degree holders make more money and they also spend more money and pay more taxes. One recent study  showed that over the course of a 40-year career, a person with a graduate degree in N.L. will earn about 1.5 million dollars more than a high school graduate. Just think of the tax income that generates. And this “rate of return” on investment continues to grow every year. In short, “(h)igher education is a positivesum game” ; everyone benefits.
It’s not just the money . University graduates are job creators, innovators, magnets for talent, and they are engaged citizens. People with university degrees in N.L. are 29 per cent more likely to volunteer in their community and they donate more to charity. They participate in politics and they vote. They are less likely to depend on social services and have better physical and mental health. They are happier: Life satisfaction in N.L. among university graduates is rated as 17 per cent better than those without .
But beyond the numbers, talent
attracts talent; people want to live in a place that has civic pride with a thriving culture and forwardlooking citizens who approach problems with creativity and innovation.
Our university fosters such critical thinking, self-reflection, and tolerance. It encourages exploration into new ways of knowing and helps develop innovation, inclusivity and diversity. Our students are supremely curious and keen to make a difference.
Supporting the university supports our future right now. Cutting the university destroys that future and those students right now.
1 http://www.conferenceboard.ca/e-library/abstract. aspx?did=6607
2 http://www.international.gc.ca/education/report-rapport/ impact-2016/index.aspx?lang=eng
5 http://www.heqco.ca/ SiteCollectionDocuments/ HEQCO_Canadian_Postsecondary_Performance_Impact2015.pdf
Aimée M. Surprenant, PhD, Dean, MUN School of Graduate Studies, writes from St. John’s