The more educated the population, the more robust the economy – a proven theory that puts Greater Philadelphia in an enviable position in terms of economic growth.
"The region's 100-plus colleges and universities have created a vibrant higher education sector in Greater Philadelphia," says the Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, president of Villanova University in Philadelphia. "Our institutions are leading economic drivers and make significant fiscal, academic, civic and social contributions in their communities and beyond.”
The engine of innovation in Greater Philadelphia is fueled by the higher education sector, with total full- and part-time enrollment of more than 400,000 and more than 85,000 degrees and certificates awarded each year. These colleges and universities keep the economy of the region stocked with highly skilled and educated workers, provide leading-edge research capabilities across a gamut of disciplines, and supply critical skills training programs.
More Degrees, More Success
The educational level of the Greater Philadelphia workforce is impressive. The percentage of the population with bachelor’s and advanced degrees far outpaces the national average. In 2010, nearly one in three Greater Philadelphia residents age 25 years and older had a bachelor’s degree or higher – 5 percentage points above the national figure. More than 13 percent of the population of the region held advanced degrees compared to the U.S. share of 10.3 percent.
A 2010 study found the region's colleges and universities grant more professional degrees (law degrees, medical degrees and MBAs) on a per-10,000-resident basis than anywhere in the nation. “The knowledge industries of the Greater Philadelphia region are fueled by the advanced degrees produced in our region,” says Wendell E. Pritchett, chancellor, Rutgers University-Camden.
Universities in the region such as Princeton University, Temple University, Rutgers-Camden, the University of Pennsylvania, Rowan University, St. Joseph’s University, the University of Delaware and Widener University continuously work to keep professional and graduate programs in sync with current and emerging best practices, whether they are large state-run institutions or smaller private colleges.
The Community College of Philadelphia is also doing its part to provide employers with a workforce that keeps the region’s economy moving forward.
President Stephen M. Curtis says the college meets workforce demands by creating a range of flexible learning solutions for corporations, small businesses and individuals. Accelerated career pathways and academic certificate programs allow the unemployed and underemployed workers to divide long-term educational goals into small, manageable steps, Curtis says.
“We recently graduated our largest class ever," he says. "Approximately 1,908 students earned associate degrees or academic certificates in May 2012. More than 78 percent of our students remain in the region, contributing to the pipeline of skilled workers.”
Those graduates are part of the more than 60 percent of all alumni throughout the region who stay in Greater Philadelphia for a year or more after graduating, according to a 2010 study by Campus Philly, a nonprofit organization that promotes economic growth by encouraging college students to study, live and work in the region.
Higher Education, Big Impact
Combined, the institutions in the region are an economic force, contributing some $15 billion annually to the region's GDP, generating some $500 billion in capital investment and employing more than 70,000 people. Four of the region's top 50 employers are higher education institutions, including the No. 2 overall employer, the University of Pennsylvania, with 16,000 workers.
“Colleges and universities have the spending power of a major industry,” says John Fry, Drexel University president.
For example, in 2010 combined spending by students and higher education institutions in the region totaled $16.3 billion, and that didn't include construction spending.
Drexel has made a strategic commitment to become an even greater engine for economic development, Fry says. “We can do that through our translational research enterprise, which moves basic science into commercially viable technologies that spin off companies and jobs.”
And a hallmark of Greater Philadelphia's colleges and universities is a collaborative, regional approach through initiatives such as the Regional College and University Presidents Council. Council members meet regularly to share ideas and discuss issues facing the more than 100 higher education institutions in the region.
"The council seeks to explore cooperative opportunities and develop meaningful relationships with the business sector that can enhance the region," says Villanova’s Rev. Donohue, co-chair of the council.