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Accurate data shows that higher education can prop up the economy

Paul Newman

December 11, 2013

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Two of the primary areas where data quality can have a true impact on people's lives are improving education and propping up the economy. And according to recent reports, the two are interconnected. By strengthening education - especially higher ed, to be specific - tech innovators can usher in economic growth. If data scientists at colleges and universities are able to strengthen their programs through high-quality data, the effects will trickle down. Schools and societies alike will benefit.

Michigan Live recently explained how this effect could take place at the 15 major universities in the state of Michigan. The presidents of those schools are pushing to boost support from the state by over $100 million over the next three years, and they're armed with a wealth of data to demonstrate the positive effects that such a move will have statewide.

Columnist Tim Skubick reported that according to a data-driven analysis conducted by the university presidents, 120,000 people work at those state schools, pouring $12.2 billion into the state's economy. That's almost as many as work in the auto industry (150,000). In addition, enrollment at those schools is up 4 percent, and graduation has risen 13 percent. That's led to quantifiable economic gain - if you count all students plus the 1.3 million college graduates still living in the state, they spend $47 billion each year.

The presidents assert that if the state invests more in public higher ed, those returns will be even greater in the years to come.

"All eyes are on this governor and his budget director," Skubick writes. "If they low-ball the budget increase and suggest a figure well below the $100 million mark, it's unlikely lawmakers will take the lead to boost it. In fact some legislators want to slice it even more. If lawmakers and the governor truly believe higher ed can grow the economy, and the data supports that, the college presidents must be thinking it's put-up or shut-up time."

This is data quality in action. If leaders in higher education are able to put together convincing information about their schools - how many they're enrolling, how many they're graduating and what tangible economic effect they all have - they can make their case for a brighter tomorrow. But that information must be accurate. Quality is the starting point from which a series of beneficial changes can be made.

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