Higher ed and the economy
Minnesota's future economic growth will require sustaining our state's historic focus on education. Minnesota has had a competitive advantage, based on our human capital. But it is not clear how long that will hold true. Here are some of the ways education matters.
Higher education drives Minnesota's economic success
Minnesota’s educated workforce has made us a competitive and thriving state, and has been critical to our state’s economic strength and standard of living. Today 50% of Minnesotans between the ages of 25 and 44 have an associate’s degree or higher, ranking Minnesota second in the nation in terms of educational attainment (view data). States like Minnesota — with higher levels of educational attainment (view report) — have higher median household incomes and lower levels of unemployment (view statistics).
A college degree can make the difference in the lifelong earning potential and overall quality of life of the state's residents. The income gap between high school graduates and college graduates has increased significantly over time. There are also nonmonetary rewards to a college education. College graduates are more likely to lead a healthy lifestyle, volunteer and vote (view report).
Minnesota’s educational achievement gaps impacts the economy
According to Minnesota’s state demographer, our labor force growth will dramatically slow in the next three decades, due to a combination of an increasing number of workers reaching retirement age and little to no growth in the number of younger workers. The result is an average growth rate of only 8,000 workers per year in the 2010s, dropping to 4,000 per year in the 2020s.
With a workforce that is growing slowly, it will be increasingly difficult for Minnesota employers to find and hire the employees needed to grow and expand their businesses in our state. According to the Georgetown University Center for the Study of Education and the Workforce, Minnesota will need 74 percent of its workforce to have at least some college education by 2020, and more than half of those workers will require a bachelor’s degree or higher (view report).
A skilled workforce is the cornerstone for Minnesota to be ready to change and grow. Our workforce is recognized as one of the best in the nation. Minnesota must narrow the persistent achievement gap to ensure ALL Minnesotans are job ready for the challenges of a global economy.”
- Doug Loon, President
Minnesota Chamber Of Commerce
For all of Minnesota to continue to compete economically in the next decades, we must further boost our level of educational attainment. Yet too many Minnesotans — particularly those from disadvantaged families — are falling behind.
Minnesota students from lower-income families tend to have lower academic achievement than their classmates from higher-income families, resulting in increased barriers to college access and degree attainment (view report). And these students are disproportionately students of color and from families where they are the first to go on to college (view report).
Looking across the income spectrum, there is a stark contrast in bachelor's degree attainment rates. According to a national study, 77% of those with families that are in the top 25% (or quartile) of incomes earn a bachelor’s degree by the age of 24. Contrast that with 9% and 17% for the lower two quartiles (view report).
If we are to remain competitive, Minnesota simply cannot afford to waste the potential of anyone in our state.
State Grant invests in Minnesota's "human capital"
Minnesota must reduce economic barriers to educational success for lower- and middle-income Minnesotans. When more students succeed, Minnesota will have a stronger economy and stronger communities. With targeted investments in the Minnesota State Grant program, higher education institutions across the state — both public and private — can significantly contribute to closing achievement gaps and strengthening our future workforce.
Students will succeed in college and be more likely to graduate on time when they pursue a degree at the college that best fits their academic potential and aspiration. That’s why the State Grant program is such an important public-private partnership; it preserves choice for students when deciding where they will go to college.
How private nonprofit colleges contribute to Minnesota’s workforce needs
The Minnesota Private College Council represents 17 private nonprofit institutions enrolling more than 40,000 undergraduates (view our enrollment report). While our institutions are private, they serve a public purpose — to meet the needs of our state and its residents. As policymakers look to address the state’s workforce challenges, our 17 nonprofit private colleges and universities play an essential role.
We educate tomorrow’s workforce
The knowledge and skills gained at our 17 colleges and universities are exactly what employers seek. A liberal arts education that emphasizes critical thinking skills is more relevant than ever in our global economy. Students also graduate well prepared to go on to earn graduate and professional degrees. And the real-world experiences that our colleges encourage — internships, undergraduate research, and overseas study — develop important workforce skills.
Overall, our institutions award 29% of all baccalaureate degrees in Minnesota, filling critical workforce needs. This share is higher in specific areas, including nursing (44%) and business (33%). View our bachelor's degrees granted report.
We efficiently graduate students
Our four-year completion rate is the best in the state. Of the students who start at and graduate from our institutions, 87% graduate in four years or less. That’s in contrast to 67% at the U of M and 44% at Minnesota State universities. (Our four-year graduation rate is also the best in the state; that measure looks at all students who enroll as freshmen and whether they graduate four years later.) View our graduation rate report.
On-time graduation also substantially reduces student debt. Research has shown (view report) that students who spend an additional two years of college at a public four-year college hold 70% more student debt compared to students who graduate on time.
Our alumni stay in Minnesota
About 300,000 of our alumni call Minnesota home, and 72% of our most recent graduates — regardless of their home state — stay in Minnesota, adding to the quality of the state’s workforce and tax base. View our recent graduates report.