Lori Sturdevant, an editorial writer and columnist, has covered state government and politics for more than 30 years.

Higher education's dividend

Posted by: Lori Sturdevant Updated: January 18, 2013 - 1:34 PM

State lawmakers who are struggling to stabilize the state budget for the long term should consider the implications of an undereducated workforce, a new report advises.

Do nothing to boost the share of Minnesotans who have attained at least a two-year college degree, and the state's college-educated workforce in 2025 is projected to be 5 percent smaller than the economy demands, according to a new report by the Midwestern Higher Education Compact.

That translates into a drop in state tax revenue of $30 million from today's levels, the report says.

But close the demand gap for college-educated workers, and the state's bottom line will see a $600 million per year boost from today's levels, it says. Not only will better-educated workers be paying higher taxes, they'll also cost the state less, particularly in subsidized health care. The state will also be populated by more people who volunteer their time and treasure to civic causes, vote regularly, and contribute positively to public health, it adds. 

Those who want government to reduce spending are good at describing the economic risks associated with higher taxes. The Higher Education Compact's report is a useful reminder that risks also accompany cuts in spending that diminish the state's human capital.

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