St. Petersburg College (SPC) is having a profound impact on not just its degree-seeking students but Pinellas County’s economy as a whole – to the tune of $1.2 billion.
A study by the labor market company Emsi revealed that SPC added over a billion dollars to the Pinellas County economy, equal to 2.2% of the county’s entire gross regional product.
Illustrating the value of attending the post-secondary school to students and residents in the region, SPC alumni employed in Pinellas County create $950 million in added income. A two-year associate’s degree will boost the average SPC graduate’s earning potential by $7,000 annually, compared to those in Florida with just a high school diploma or GED.
St. Petersburg City Councilmember and mayoral candidate Robert Blackmon told the Catalyst that studies such as this underscore the importance of working closely with institutions of higher education to benefit the city and the surrounding region.
“It benefits us in multiple ways, both tangible and intangible,” said Blackmon. “Of course education, but also corporations look at the higher educated workforces when looking into relocating. The more educated the potential employees are, the more jobs will be created here, which absolutely has a ripple effect felt throughout our region.”
In a statement, SPC President Tonjua Williams said the study’s results are proof that the college’s commitment to improving the employment and financial prospects of its students are, quite literally, paying off.
“This study validates the work that SPC puts into bolstering the local and regional workforce through our programs,” said Williams. “We’re proud of our alumni and our outstanding faculty, who are key to ensuring that our students succeed in the classroom and in their careers.”
Dr. Cynthia Johnson, Director of Pinellas County Economic Development, highlighted the critical role SPC plays in supplying the county with skilled workers. St. Petersburg and Pinellas County have seen an influx of valuable corporations seeking to relocate or begin operations in the area recently, and access to quality workforce support is a large part of the attraction.
“St. Petersburg College’s activities and students support one of every 36 jobs in Pinellas – that almost 18,000 jobs,” said Johnson in the press release.
“We are privileged and proud to tell prospective businesses that Pinellas County has the workforce support to meet their employment needs, thanks in large part to the great work being done by St. Petersburg College.”
Cristopher Steinocher, President and CEO of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, lauded SPC for its ability to adapt to a rapidly changing world and workforce requirements.
“In every meaningful conversation about our city and county’s future success, SPC is ready to go,” said Steincocher. “It’s the culture they’ve built – they’ve created the 21st century higher learning institution and are relevant to every family and employer in our community.”
The Emsi study showed SPC’s economic impact also extends far beyond St. Pete and Pinellas County.
In fiscal year 2019-2020, SPC added $2.3 billion in income to the overall Tampa Bay regional economy, equal to 1.3% of the area’s gross regional product. In addition, SPC directly supports over 30,000 jobs in the region.
Furthermore, the study also revealed the high return on investment that SPC creates for its stakeholders. For every $1 spent supporting the college, the surrounding community gains $8.40 in additional income and social savings.
SPC is also outpacing its peers in Florida. According to the school’s website, SPC alumni rank first in the state for the highest entry-level wages among community college graduates.
Founded in 1927 as St. Petersburg Junior College, SPC became Florida’s first two-year college. The school was also the first state college in the state to offer Bachelor’s degrees. SPC now offers over 180 degree and certificate programs and features a career-focused curriculum.
SPC serves over 53,000 students across 11 learning sites in the area. Its Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions has also provided a popular forum for public policy debate to address the community’s needs.
Emsi is a labor market data company headquartered in Boston and Moscow, Idaho. It has focused on higher education and business and community development since 2001.