Corporate Investment in Education: What’s the ROI?
Posted on July 24, 2011
On a hot day when tempers in D.C. were flaring around the federal debt negotiations, President Obama took a break from the pressing business of the day to host a rather cordial meeting with corporate CEOs representing a wide range of industries from telecommunications to insurance. The common link may be surprising: each are respected leaders in education. Given the urgency of the debt debate, was this really the time?
The time is now. In recent years, CEOs have been dedicating increased resources to philanthropic, volunteer and, in some cases, for-profit initiatives that seek to improve our nation’s education. And as business leaders, the question they are asking – and the President and his team want to discuss an answer to is “Where’s the return on investment?”
Early indicators are promising:
- We are finally beginning to see a real return in the form of rising graduation rates – an area that companies like AT&T have prioritized in their philanthropy. The rate rose from 72% to 75% from 2002 – 2008. Some states, like Tennessee, are enjoying double digit increases.
- Forty-four states have now signed on to the Common Core Standards, a framework designed to set the bar of what is expected as students progress through our education system. Many of those that haven’t are working towards college and career-ready standards of their own.
- While less than one percent of investment in public education comes from corporations, those investments are laser focusing on areas aligned with key business objectives (e.g., STEM, workforce readiness, underperforming schools) and beginning to show real results.
- The business, government and NGO community are now working more closely than ever towards common goals, whether that be to keep more at-risk kids in school, raise the college graduation rate, or prepare more engineers. Instead of everyone going down their own path, groups like Change the Equation and the Lumina Foundation’s 2025 campaign are pooling resources.
So why interrupt a major economic moment in history for a chat about schools? Because change may be slow, but we cannot let our foot off the gas pedal of what is in the long run an economic issue just as pressing and with a longer shelf life – preparing our young people to be even better leaders tomorrow than we are today.