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Guest Column
St. Petersburg College gives the Tampa Bay economy a $2.3 billion boost | Column
SPC students tend to stay in the Tampa Bay area after they graduate, adding great economic value to our entire region.
Michelle Butts, St. Pete College intern, left, talks with Dysani Chance, as they work through an exercise during a preschool class at the Lew Williams Center for Early Learning, 901 34th St. S, on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021, in St. Petersburg.
Michelle Butts, St. Pete College intern, left, talks with Dysani Chance, as they work through an exercise during a preschool class at the Lew Williams Center for Early Learning, 901 34th St. S, on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021, in St. Petersburg. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Dec. 2, 2021

For nearly 100 years, St. Petersburg College has been a valuable and accessible resource for people seeking better lives for their families and fulfillment in their careers. Since we enroll more than 43,000 students each year in our degree and short-term training programs, it’s pretty likely that you or others you know have a diploma or certification from SPC — or perhaps from St. Petersburg Junior College. But what you may not know is the profound effect that SPC has on the economic value of Pinellas County, the Tampa Bay area and beyond.

Tonjua Williams
Tonjua Williams [ Provided ]

Recently, SPC contracted data analytics advisers Emsi to conduct an economic impact analysis, based on 2019-20 data. Emsi, a national leader in labor market data studies, performs analyses for colleges and universities all around the country. We at SPC already knew we were doing good things, but the results of the report truly tell the story of the impact we have on our students by providing them with pathways to economic opportunity, and on our community, through the increased health, safety and well-being that comes with an educated citizenry.

The research revealed just how much, in dollars, that St. Petersburg College gives back to the community. In the 2019-20 fiscal year alone, SPC added $2.3 billion in income to the Tampa Bay region’s economy — which is about 1.3 percent of the region’s gross regional product (GRP). Zooming in on Pinellas County, the college added $1.2 billion in income to the county’s economy, or approximately 2.2 percent of the county’s total GRP.

Additional findings include:

· SPC alumni contribute more than $950 million in added income to the county.

· For every $1 that supports SPC, the community gains $8.40 in added income and social savings.

· SPC’s operations spending added $163.8 million to the county’s income.

A major takeaway is that SPC trains a talented workforce, and our students tend to stay in Pinellas and the Tampa Bay area after they graduate. This adds great economic value to our entire region. In fact, the report showed that SPC and our students are responsible for 17,547 jobs in Pinellas and 30,000 regionally. That means that one in 36 jobs in Pinellas can be attributed to the efforts of St. Petersburg College.

The numbers also show that our average associate degree graduate will earn nearly $12,000 more each year than a person with a high school diploma or equivalent. That number skyrockets to additional annual earnings of $28,500 year with a bachelor’s degree. SPC offers 17 bachelor’s degrees in the areas of business, education, health services, public safety and many more.

The results certainly confirmed our belief that the work done by our faculty, staff and students upholds our visionary commitment to provide an excellent education that prepares our students for the good-paying jobs that keep our community up and running.

Behind these figures are thousands of citizens who have bettered their lives and the lives of their families — and their communities — through education. From the nurse who takes care of you at the local hospital, to your child’s teacher, to the firefighter that arrives on scene, these are faces of St. Petersburg College. As we approach our 100th anniversary in 2027, I am proud to share what an impact a community college makes to our every day lives.

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Tonjua Williams is the president of St. Petersburg College, Florida’s oldest community college. A St. Petersburg native, she serves on the Board of the American Association of Community Colleges and is an alumna of the inaugural class of the Aspen Presidential Fellows.