COCC’s Economic Impact Influences Both the Lives of Students and Central Oregon Economy

Aug. 15, 2023

A new study demonstrates the transformative value and benefits that Central Oregon Community College (COCC) generates for the regional economy. Lightcast, a leading provider of economic impact studies and labor market data, has just released both statewide and regional reports assessing the economic impact of Oregon’s 17 community colleges. These studies find that COCC creates a strong net-positive impact on the Central Oregon economy and generates a positive return on investment for students, taxpayers, and society.

COCC added $289.6 million in income to the economies of Crook, Jefferson, and Deschutes counties during the 2021-22 analysis year and supported 3,562 regional jobs. This means that one out of every 43 jobs in Central Oregon is supported by the activities of COCC and its students. For context, the college’s nearly $300 million in economic impact was equal to approximately 2% of the total gross regional product (GRP) of Central Oregon — nearly as large as the entire Transportation and Warehousing industry in the same region.

“This new report is a powerful testament to the benefits COCC generates in return for the investments made by students, local taxpayers, and all Central Oregonians,” says Dr. Laurie Chesley, the college’s president.

The Lightcast study notes students see a high rate of return for their investment in higher education at COCC. The average COCC associate degree graduate from FY 2021-22 will see annual earnings that are $8,000 higher than a person with a high school diploma or equivalent working in Oregon. Over a working lifetime, the benefits of the associate degree from COCC over a high school diploma will amount to $280,000 in higher earnings per graduate.

"COCC offers our students a fantastic value during their studies,” adds Chesley. “But we also offer our students a pathway to higher incomes throughout their lifetimes, which will in turn impact their families, their employers, and our communities at large.”

The report finds that COCC supports a variety of industries and regional businesses in Crook, Deschutes, and Jefferson counties. The college also generates more in tax revenue than it receives, resulting in increased local and state tax revenues and public sector savings. According to the study, COCC also provides societal benefits through an increased economic base from students’ increased lifetime earnings and increased business output, both of which raise economic prosperity in Oregon. In total, for every dollar invested in COCC, Oregonians will receive a cumulative value of $5.90 in benefits.

The Lightcast studies demonstrate that COCC creates value from multiple perspectives. The college benefits regional businesses by increasing consumer spending in the region and supplying a steady flow of qualified, trained workers to the workforce. COCC enriches the lives of students by raising their lifetime earnings and helping them achieve their individual potential. The college benefits state and local taxpayers through increased tax receipts and a reduced demand for government-supported social services. Finally, COCC benefits Oregon society at large by creating a more prosperous economy and generating a variety of savings through the improved lifestyles of students.

The full “Economic Value of Central Oregon Community College” report is available online, as is an executive summary.

Student annual rate of return for their investment