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Higher education and training will make your money grow in the Central Florida

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Florida TaxWatch recently released a report this month looking at the economic and fiscal impacts of education and training beyond high school. (photo via: nattanan/wikimedia)

Florida TaxWatch released a report earlier this month looking at the economic and fiscal impacts of education and training beyond high school. Lawrence Drake is interim President and Dean of the College of Business and Entrepreneurship at Bethune Cookman University . WMFE’s Talia Blake spoke with Drake about some of the ways higher education and training benefit the economy and residents in Central Florida.

Lawrence Drake is the interim president and Dean of the College of Business and Entrepreneurship at Bethune Cookman University. (photo via: Lawrence Drake)

Sail to 60 Initiative

In 2019, Florida passed the ‘SAIL to 60’ initiative, with the goal of getting  60% of working-age Floridians to hold a workforce specialization, whether from a certificate, credential, training, or degree. But 3 years later, Florida is about 791,000 people short of that goal.  BCU’s Lawrence Drake said we’re falling behind neighboring states, like Georgia. 

“If you look at just even one county, Fulton County, they are essentially a 50% college attainment, above 50% in terms of degree attainment. That coupled with those who have some college, and those who have certificates, makes them as very strong labor market, attracting new companies and new industries,” he explained. “I think Central Florida wants to be there as well. But for for us to do that, we’re going to have to be much more aggressive. So, while 60 is a great target, and by the way, we’ve haven’t reached that yet. I think we will need to even go beyond that as we look towards the 21st century.”

Livable Wages

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household income in Florida is $57,703. But in parts of Central Florida, that income is even less. “Take Volusia County as an example,” Drake said. “Volusia County has about $53,000, which indexed about 91% to the state of Florida.”

Drake said competitively we need to be greater than that. “I think that incomes should eclipse $60,000 to $65,000, when we start talking about not only what is a gainful employment, or living wage, but what it’s going to take in the future economy, and even the current economy, to live and raise a family.”

According to Drake, these wages are not enough to support a family of 4 in Central Florida. “When I think a family of four, if you’re not making $75,000 to $80,000, you’re struggling,” he said.

The cost of education has gone up, but Drake said wages are not matching that increase. “If you just look at education in general, college costs have gone up 160% since 1980. Wages among those 22 to 27 years old has only gone up 18%,” he explained.

Drake said this imbalance sheds light on why some young people are thinking about their amount of debt before starting a family. “That’s why we also believe that this kind of learning can’t be so expensive that the average person can’t afford it,” he said.

Boosting Service Sector Jobs

The economy in Central Florida is tied to the booming tourism industry. Drake said more training could help people working in service sector jobs by by adding certifications or stackable credentials. “On top of that, we’re launching at BCU, a department called the Center of Excellence,” he said. “And the Center of Excellence is going to be targeted at the service sector, actually enhancing the skills of those who are working in that sector, who want to earn more, and partnering with their employers to create a different kind of workforce.

Benefits of Higher Education

If more people in Central Florida pursue higher education or more training past high school, the benefits to the individual could be substantial. “As it relates to historically black colleges, because we study them so intently,” Drake said. ” Someone who attends a historically black college will make a million dollars more over their lifetime, than someone who didn’t go to college at all.”

Not only will the individual resident benefit, but the society as a whole too. “The benefits are not only a stronger consumer attitude and more spending, but then there’s the tax benefits to our government to be able to spend some of that money back with the kinds of things we need infrastructure, education and other things,” he said. “Then there’s the idea of the cost of health care (and) the cost of well being. the stronger that a family is, the less poverty that we actually have to deal with in our region, the stronger that our region becomes.”

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Talia Blake

About Talia Blake

Morning Edition Host & Reporter

After a brief stint as Morning Edition Producer at The Public’s Radio in in Rhode Island, Talia Blake returned to WMFE, the station that grew her love for public radio. She graduated with a double-major in Broadcast Journalism and Psychology from the University of Central Florida (Go Knights!). While at UCF, she ... Read Full Bio »