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New Report Highlights Economic Return on Postsecondary Investment

New report shows that Mississippi could gain over $376 million annually in increased tax revenue and decreased social services spending if it increased its postsecondary attainment rate from 44% to 60%.

Blue and white logos of Woodward Hines Education Foundation and Mississippi Economic Council

January 23, 2023

New Report Highlights Economic Return on Postsecondary Investment

JACKSON, MISS. – Today, Ithaka S+R released a new report commissioned by Woodward Hines Education Foundation (WHEF) highlighting the economic impact of increasing access to and completion of postsecondary credentials in Mississippi. The report, titled Strengthening Mississippi’s Economic Future Through Postsecondary Investment, provides stakeholders who would benefit from the achievement of the statewide postsecondary attainment goal, Ascent to 55%, with information to make strategic investments in postsecondary education.

“Our mission is to help more Mississippians obtain postsecondary credentials that lead to meaningful employment,” said WHEF President & CEO Jim McHale. “This report highlights why the Ascent to 55% effort is so important to Mississippi and offers essential guidance to help reach our north star of increasing postsecondary attainment for Mississippi’s future.”

Currently, 44 percent of Mississippi residents possess education and training beyond high school. Ascent to 55% was adopted in October 2020 by the Mississippi Education Achievement Council (EAC) to improve the state’s ability to competitively attract and retain workforce talent by increasing postsecondary attainment. Nationally, the average attainment is 51.9 percent. The goal is to achieve 55 percent attainment for 25 to 64-year-olds by 2030 and 60 percent attainment by 2035.

According to the report, Mississippi could potentially gain over $376 million annually in increased tax revenue and decreased social services spending if the state increased its attainment rate to 60 percent. Cameron Childress, a senior analyst at Ithaka S+R and one of the report’s authors, noted that “a more educated population would earn higher wages and support industries that are key to state and local economies.”

As the state chamber of commerce, the Mississippi Economic Council (MEC) has a vested interest in creating opportunities to enhance Mississippi’s workforce and support the Ascent to 55% goal.

“When we invest in increasing certificates and degrees, particularly for lower-income Mississippians, people of color, and rural communities, we can strengthen the workforce and labor market,” said MEC President & CEO Scott Waller. “The recommendations in the report could greatly impact our economic future and develop a more competitive workforce. It proposes additional pathways to reaching Ascent to 55%.”

The report also highlights the impact of closing equity gaps in attainment and earnings for underrepresented populations. According to Ithaka S+R, investing in developmental education policies that work with students that need the most support is especially beneficial to the state.

“The numbers speak volumes,” said McHale. “They show that we’re on the right path in our efforts to collaborate with public and private partners to reach our statewide postsecondary attainment goal and to positively impact Mississippi’s economy.”

To read the full report, visit sr.ithaka.org/publications/strengthening-mississippis-economic-future-through-postsecondary-investment.

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About Woodward Hines Education Foundation

Since its inception, WHEF has worked to increase college access and entry for people in Mississippi and has expanded that work to support promising practices that lead to college persistence and completion. The Foundation envisions a Mississippi where all people can secure the training and education beyond high school that will allow them to advance their quality of life, strengthen their communities, and contribute to a vibrant and prosperous future for the state. Learn more about WHEF by visiting woodwardhines.org.

About Mississippi Economic Council

The Mississippi Economic Council – the State Chamber of Commerce has been the voice of Mississippi business since 1949. MEC deals with broad businesses issues through advocacy, research, resources, and leadership. MEC has more than 11,000 members from 1,000 member firms in 2,400 locations throughout Mississippi.

About Ithaka S+R

Ithaka S+R provides research and strategic guidance to help the academic and cultural communities serve the public good and navigate economic, demographic, and technological change. Ithaka S+R is part of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit with a mission to improve access to knowledge and education for people around the world. We believe education is key to the wellbeing of individuals and society, and we work to make it more effective and affordable.