Private Colleges Position the Region Well

James C. Ross, President, Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities

A new descriptive term just coming into common use points out a vital element in this country’s productivity and prosperity: the "knowledge worker." It is destined to be one of the keynotes of 21st century life in America and the world.The importance of the knowledge worker is in quality, rather than quantity, of output — a reversal of the role traditional for the manual worker. This still-emerging concept focuses on the individual worker’s autonomy and career-long continuous learning and on status as a capital asset rather than as an accounting cost.Peter F. Drucker, the noted analyst of trends, forecasts that within the next few years, economic leadership will be in the control of those areas that successfully raise knowledge-worker productivity. Ability to attract and hold the best of the knowledge workers will spell the fate of industries, nations, and regions.Fortunately for the Capital District, we have a huge investment already operating to give us a jump-start in this keen competition for survival. In this region are 10 private colleges and universities, enrolling some 25,000 students, of whom 32 percent come to New York as assets gained from other states and countries. These campuses, with 8,000 employees receiving some $296 million in salaries and with other expenditures of $1.8 billion are a substantial element in a $2.15 billion economic impact in the Capital region.Among the programs that directly contribute to the region’s ability to contribute to the essential knowledge-worker component are the Government Law Center, Center for Advanced Technology in Automation, Robotics, and Manufacturing; computer career and graduate management institutes, and institutes on banking/financial services and international business studies.The region’s private colleges and universities are among more than 100 in New York State’s eight economic areas, where nearly 400,000 students are enrolled, many of them in advanced studies that are integral to the knowledge-worker pool. In fact, 40,000 graduate degrees are annually awarded by these institutions for work in such programs.Their campuses, with 137,400 employees and a $4.6 billion payroll, put $14.6 billion into the state’s economy, with a resultant $36.4 billion impact on New York’s economy, every year.Behind these noteworthy statistics are our alumni, both those long-established and those who are recent, employees and entrepreneurs alike — the knowledge workers — who can lead the way to a renaissance for New York State.