Del Tech says taxpayers get a 9 percent return

Delaware Tech President Mark Brainard
Delaware Tech President Mark Brainard

By Kathy Canavan

Delaware Technical and Community College has released an independent study concluding taxpayers are getting 9 percent return on their investment in the college.

It’s also rolling out a billboard campaign that will resonate in a state where only 38 percent of college students graduate with no debt. The gist: “Seventy percent of Delaware Tech students graduate without debt.”

Administrators are hoping to sway state lawmakers to give the college the $7 million Gov. Jack Markell recommended in his budget proposal plus an additional $5.7 million to maintain its aging buildings and expand its downtown Wilmington campus.

They are also asking the legislature to review the way it currently funds capital improvements at colleges – which one administrator described as simply splitting any money left over after state agencies’ requests among the three state-supported colleges.

College President Mark Brainard last week said Delaware Tech has been an anchor in downtown Wilmington for decades, and the state should invest in the its Orlando J. George Jr. Campus at this challenging time for the city.

“All we hear is negative, negative, negative about the city of Wilmington, said Gerald M. McNesby, the college’s vice-president of finance. “We’re saying, ‘Hey, we think we have a good thing going on in the city of Wilmington. We think we’re the good-news story.”

del-tech-renderingMcNesby said three-quarters of Delaware Tech’s Wilmington campus is more than 25 years old, as is 83 percent of its Dover campus and 67 percent of its Georgetown campus.
“What we’re saying is we have to take a different look at capital investments in the community college because we’re putting Delawareans back to work and providing relevant programs that the employers need, but we can’t issue bonds, we can’t go out for referendum, and we don’t have big endowments.”

McNesby said the college is hoping for the $12.7 million figure, but administrators also hope legislators won’t shave the $7 million the governor proposed in his budget in this tough economic climate.

“I don’t think they will fund or not fund us based on what the report says, because I’m sure they see those all the time, but I think what the report does is validate what people already think about the college,” he said. “When the governor is out there recruiting companies to come to Delaware, they’re always going to ask ‘What’s your workforce like?’ and we’re always going to play a part in that.”del tech rendering

McNesby said 96 percent of the students are Delawareans and 90 percent of those who graduate stay in Delaware to work. “As they are making more money, that means they’re obviously paying more in state income tax, and you know the multiplier effect of that,” he said.

The study, paid for by the college and compiled by Economic Modeling Specialists, projects the college’s economic impact on the state in the last fiscal year was $1.1 billion – equal to 1.6 percent of Delaware’s total gross state product.

The college’s payroll and other expenditures added $100 million to the Delaware economy in the last fiscal year, and its 2,353 students spent another $7.4 million in Delaware, according to the study.

About 85 percent of Delaware Technical students stay in the state after leaving college, and it estimated their enhanced skills added $976.4 million to the state economy in the last fiscal year. The report projected that every dollar spent on the college last year will return a cumulative value of $10 in benefits to Delaware for as long as last year’s students remain active in the workforce.

Half of Delaware Tech’s funding comes from the state — $77.28 million. Another $25.72 million comes from the federal government, 17 percent of the total. Tuition and fees bring in $45.92 million, or 30 percent.

McNesby said Delaware Tech administrators will continue to talk with all the legislators and with the business community as the final budget is hammered out between now and June.

“We know what the revenue situation is. We understand that completely, but we need to become more of a budget priority,” McNesby said. “We’re in every county, and we’re serving Delawareans. We need help.” ♦

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