Utah Board of Higher Education Reaffirms Commitment to Advancing Higher Education’s Benefits for Utahns

Board enters into six-year contract with Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute

At its June 6 meeting, the Utah Board of Higher Education received an in-depth presentation reaffirming the significant personal, economic and societal benefits of higher education in Utah. The findings, originally released in February by the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, emphasize the profound impact of earning certificates or degrees from institutions within the Utah System of Higher Education.

The brief highlights that Utahns with higher educational attainment experience increased income, expanded employment opportunities and improved health outcomes. These personal advantages are complemented by broader societal and economic benefits, solidifying higher education’s role as a cornerstone of the state’s prosperity.

“We are committed to ensuring that all Utahns, whether pursuing a short-term certificate or a degree, have access to the benefits of higher education,” said Jon Cox, Utah Board of Higher Education member. “USHE technical colleges and our degree-granting institutions have affordable options that open doors for students to better job opportunities, ultimately enhancing the quality of life for Utah families and strengthening our communities.”

“It’s education that creates a large middle class, equality of income, and upward mobility,” Natalie Gochnour, Director of the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, added during her presentation.

During its meeting, the Board authorized the Office of the Commissioner to enter a contract with the Gardner Institute for up to $1.7 million over the next six years to conduct research and provide reports on the value of higher education including, but not limited to, the economic contributions of USHE institutions, budget stress testing, affordability and ROI.

Key Findings from the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute’s Brief on The Value of Higher Education:

Personal Benefits:

  • Increased Earnings: Median earnings rise with years of education attained, while poverty and unemployment rates decline.
  • Reduced Disparities and Higher Economic Mobility: Individuals with family members who hold postgraduate degrees are more likely to complete postsecondary education, achieving higher economic mobility.
  • Better Health Outcomes: More educated Utahns report better health and higher rates of health care coverage.
  • Improved Outlook: Those with higher education levels report greater happiness, health, and confidence in their future.

Societal Benefits:

  • More Civic Engagement: Educated individuals show higher rates of volunteering and voter participation.
  • Decreased Reliance on Public Assistance: Higher education significantly reduces public assistance dependency, with many graduates moving off programs like SNAP.
  • Return on Investment: For every $1 the state invests in public higher education, there is a $3 return in tax revenues from increased wages of graduates.
  • Increased Tax Revenue: Workers with higher education levels contribute substantially more in taxes.

Economic Benefits:

  • Major Employer: Utah’s public higher education system supported approximately 130,000 jobs in 2023.
  • Substantial Economic Contribution: Public higher education contributes $11.3 billion to Utah’s economy, with R1 research universities (University of Utah and Utah State University) generating a significant portion of this impact.
  • Workforce Development: Over 203,000 students enrolled in USHE institutions are preparing to meet Utah’s workforce needs, with 71% of graduates receiving high-yield degrees in 2022.
  • Research and Innovation: Research universities attract external funding, driving innovation and creating new companies and impactful discoveries.
  • Education Multiplier: Education services in Utah have a high economic multiplier of 2.1, meaning every direct contribution related to education services has a more than twofold economic impact.

The Utah Board of Higher Education remains dedicated to sharing the value of higher education with all Utahns, ensuring that the state’s educational institutions continue to drive personal, societal and economic growth.

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Trisha Dugovic
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