The San Marcos Chamber of Commerce doesn't know which business in its city has the greatest positive financial impact on inland North County, but a study by San Diego State University suggests that it may well be Palomar Community College.
The 18,800-student college not only generates about 1,000 vocational certificates and associate of arts degrees every year but, maybe more important from an economist's standpoint, generates nearly $40 million annually for the North County economy, according to a pair of SDSU researchers.
By comparison, the 13,500-student Southwestern Community College in Chula Vista generates about $18.4 million for the South Bay economy, or less than half of Palomar's output, the researchers found.
"What the Palomar study shows to taxpayers is that the college offers a return on their investment, not only in terms of educational programs and skill levels of those who attend Palomar, but in terms of how much actual money goes back into the community," said Bill Piland, an associate professor for community college studies and a member of SDSU's research office.
"Palomar College is a business enterprise in its own right," he noted.
That's good news to Palomar President George Boggs.
"Colleges are beginning to see a need to present themselves to their community in terms of what they contribute economically to that community," Boggs said. "We usually are more inclined to talk about our excellent educational and cultural programs, rather than in terms of being a big business."
The SDSU study, made by Piland and partner Larry Stevens, concluded that Palomar Community College spends about $11.4 million for goods and services, in addition to $13.2 million paid in salaries and wages to college employees last year.
Financial Aid of $846,000
Construction projects last year added about $573,000 to the local economy, and student financial aid generates an additional $846,000, Piland and Stevens found.
On top of the $26 million, however, the two added a 50% multiplier effect--a conservative estimate, they said, of how much of the $26 million is re-spent in inland North County on food, housing, transportation, and in the wages of those people who provide the goods and services to the college.
Piland said Palomar is more of an economic force than many other community colleges--including Southwestern, the only other San Diego County community college studied by SDSU for its financial impact--because "a substantial portion of Palomar's mission is in vocational education, which means it has greater financial outlays than, say, a liberal arts college."
For instance, Palomar Community College specializes in computer science, electronics technology and industrial technology, including computer-assisted drafting and manufacturing.
Purchaser of Supplies
"So the college is buying state-of-the-art equipment, supplies and materials," Piland said.
Palomar College employs the equivalent of 834 full-time teachers and staff members. Based on generally accepted job-creation formulas, it accounted for an additional 1,821 jobs in its district--people hired in the community to supply the goods and services demanded by the college, Piland said.
The college and its employees, through their savings and checking accounts in local institutions, contributed nearly $1.7 million to the local financial credit base in 1986, the pair said.
"The college functions as an employer, consumer of goods and services, investor, landowner and builder," Piland said. "As a result, jobs are created, income flows throughout the college community, and increased funds are available to area financial institutions for loan activities."
The study itself also contributed to the county's economy; it cost $1,000 to produce.