Pasco-Hernando Community College boosts the economies of its two counties by $240 million a year, according to a recently released economic impact study.
That's about equivalent to 2.6 percent of the service area economy.
The study, conducted by Economic Modeling Specialists International, based its finding on the college's employment and spending, as well as the accumulated impact of graduates.
PHCC employs 389 full-time and 336 part-time faculty and staff, spending close to $32 million on salaries, supplies and services. It has awarded more than 32,000 degrees and certificates since opening in 1972.
The report calculated that PHCC students get a 16.7 percent rate of return on their investment of time and money, while taxpayers receive a 7.7 percent return.
"As we move forward with the approval process to offer baccalaureate degrees and open the Porter Campus in Wesley Chapel, the opportunities PHCC provides to current and future students will grow as well as our impact on the local economy," PHCC president Kathy Johnson said in a release.
The report came as part of a larger statewide look at the value of Florida's 28 colleges.
"We thought we had a good story to tell," said Joe Pickens, chairman of the colleges' presidents council. "We don't whine much, and we also don't self-promote much. … We are going to start doing a better job of telling our story."
Pickens, a former state lawmaker, noted that information about return on investment and job preparation resonates in the Legislature and the Governor's Office, where competition for dollars can be tough with so many varied interests seeking to stake their claim.
"People had a sense that we had a positive economic impact," he said, "but we needed to show them."
The study "shows that if you have a $26 billion return on investment with the system, policy makers should know additional funds in the system will lead to more people with certificates and degrees, and put more people in the workforce," said Randy Hanna, chancellor of the state Division of Florida Colleges. "That's our mission."
For years, college presidents have pushed to get more funding to serve their growing numbers of students. Some have contended that lawmakers have shortchanged colleges by basing allocations on enrollment from the most recent fiscal year rather than the one they're entering, making it difficult to keep up with the costs of rising demand.
They've also tried to get more money for the high school students they serve through dual enrollment courses.
So far, the colleges appear on track to do better than they have in the past few years. The House appropriations committee has proposed for a 3.3 percent increase in funding for the system.
Gov. Rick Scott has recommended a 7 percent increase. Hanna said he hoped that as House and Senate leaders work through the process, in the end "we'll be close" to the governor's proposal.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, (813) 909-4614 or on Twitter @jeffsolochek. For more education news visit the Gradebook at tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.