Graduates aren't the only ones who get a little extra cash after they finish college. So do the cities where they live and work.
According to Carol Coletta, president and CEO of CEOs for Cities, "If you want to know how well Memphis is doing when it comes to economic development, there is only one figure you need to know: the percentage of the population who have four-year degrees."
Yesterday, Leadership Memphis and CEOs for Cities announced the Memphis Talent Dividend's College Attainment Initiative. The goal of the program is to increase the college attainment rate in Memphis by just one percent, thus resulting in a $1 billion talent dividend for the metro area.
Memphis currently ranks 48th out of the nation's 51 largest cities in terms of the percentage of the population who have a college degree.
The $1 billion talent dividend represents the increase in personal income as a result of raising the college attainment rate in the area by one percent, or 8,000 new degrees.
Leadership Memphis members suggested the goal could be met in part by more one-on-one support for first-time freshman, a culture of college prep at area high schools, tuition reimbursement from local companies, and helping the 132,000 Memphians who started college but did not finish go back to school.
"Developing talent from within is imperative for Memphis' leaders if they want the city to thrive in the knowledge economy," Coletta said. "If talent isn't the number one priority on the economic development agenda in Memphis, then Memphis doesn't have an economic development agenda."
Twenty-eight other cities across the country are participating in the college attainment initiative. If the college attainment rate was increased by one percent in the nation's largest 51 cities, the talent dividend would be $124 billion each year.