Before we start our homework

As we start our investigation on the economics of higher ed, we could use your help

June 14, 2013

(Flickr/HA! Designs - Artbyheather)

Editor's note: This post asked how we may best focus Dabney Lyles' question. To those who helped by leaving comments below, on our Facebook page, or via Twitter: Thanks so much! Your efforts really paid off. Susie An and Logan Jaffe's finished the investigation

Recall that Dabney Lyles, a DePaul graduate student living in downtown Chicago, asked a question that won a Curious City voting round:

What effect do Chicago’s colleges and universities have on the local economy?

After a quick convo, Dabney and I decided to get some help from our fellow Curious Citizens. (That would be, um, you.) After all, there are dozens of colleges and universities in the area, and there are just as many angles to explore. So before we sharpen the pencils and start our homework, we’d like clarification on the assignment.

First, just a little background from Dabney. What got her interested in the first place was a trip to Salvador, Brazil, where she studied the city’s technology cluster. She noticed that universities played a major role in research, but they also provided students to be recruited for internships and jobs. Salvador’s economic initiative seemed focused on bolstering young talent for the local workforce. Dabney wondered how that plays out in her own city of Chicago.

And I had some experience to kick in, too. I went to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where few students would remain in town after graduation and where some businesses would limit their hours when school was out. In other words, it was a real campus town. Chicago has so many schools but they’re secondary to the city itself. I wouldn’t mind looking into how money is married between a stand-alone city economy and its many colleges.

So, here’s the short list of angles for you to comment on:

  • How much do businesses cater to the many students in the area?
  • Do municipal or local investments in university projects pay off?
  • Just where does all that tuition money go?
  • How might a university benefit or hinder the economic growth of its neighborhood?

Any suggestion or lead, though, would be great, as the Curious City crew has plenty of grade anxiety! Drop your suggestion in the comments below, or hit Curious City on Twitter  or Facebook.