Southwestern College Contributes $931.1M to Local Economy

Newly commissioned study measures College’s return on investment for students/community.

Southwestern College graduate Viry Martino explains the impact community college had on her life
Southwestern College graduate Viry Martino explains the impact community college had on her life. Seated L-R: Martha Garcia, vice president of student services for Imperial Valley College, Dr. Joi Lin Blake, superintendent/president of Palomar College.

CHULA VISTA, CA. – Southwestern College and its students contribute $931.1 million to the South County economy through wages, operating expenses, construction and taxes, a recently released economic impact report shows.

The report, prepared by Economic Modeling Specialists International, outlined the value of students’ investment in their education and the value of the community and taxpayers’ investment in the college.

For every dollar a student spends on their education, they will see a return of $3.60 in higher future earnings for an average annual return of 14.9 percent the report showed. In comparison, the stock market 10-year average return is 7.2 percent.

Society’s return on investment was $11.90 for every $1 invested, which was realized through alumni taxes paid in the region and reduced crime, lower unemployment and increased health and well-being in the community.

“Our students attend Southwestern College because of our diverse academic program offerings and our stellar faculty,” said Governing Board President Nora E. Vargas. “We are proud to demonstrate the impact of their investment in themselves and the community.”

Southwestern College officials attend local press conference
Community colleges in San Diego and Imperial counties contribute $8.1 billion to the local economy. Southwestern College officials attend local press conference. L- R: Southwestern College graduate Viry Martino, Southwestern College Governing Board Vice President Tim Nader and Interim Superintendent/President Robert Deegan.

Interim Superintendent/President Robert Deegan said Southwestern College is an economic powerhouse for the region.

“Our employees, college operations and students are among the leading consumers of goods and services for our area,” Deegan said. “Coupled with more than $25 million spent in construction during the study period, Southwestern College is also a leading job generator. We provide an excellent return on investment for all sectors of South County.”

Southwestern College’s economic impact contributed to an overall impact of $8.1 billion generated by the six community college districts in San Diego and Imperial counties. During a press conference Monday, academic and business leaders outlined the value and impact of the community college system in the region.

“You cannot have a world-class workforce without a world-class community college system,” said Mark Cafferty, president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation. “It has an amazing return on investment.”

Viry Martino, a Southwestern College graduate who later earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering at the University of Southern California, attended the press conference and spoke of the personal impact community college had on her life.

“I’m very fortunate to have gone to Southwestern College,” Martino said. “I had such a great experience afterwards at USC, and now in my career as an engineer. But I’m proud to say that Southwestern College is my first alma mater. That’s how big of an impact it had on me.”

To see the full report and an executive summary, go to