Higher education: Growth industry

As Columbia constructs the first building in its 17-acre expansion into Manhattanville next month, and NYU continues its 25-year plan to add 6 million square feet, neighbors complain the mega-projects are swallowing their neighborhoods whole. But the growth of New York’s higher education sector is a rare bright spot, adding jobs during the economic downturn.

“Interest in attending college in New York is at an all-time high,” said Jonathan Bowles of the nonprofit think tank Center for an Urban Future. “Higher education is a real engine of job growth and has helped the economy as other sectors have struggled.”

For the first time, the city has more post-secondary school workers than manufacturing workers, Crain’s New York Business reported, touting the university workforce as “just the sort of middle-class jobs the city needs to balance out income inequality.” Of course, they range in skill and salary, but well-paying university jobs often require more education than well-paying manufacturing jobs.

“This speaks to where New York and the national economy has been going,” Bowles said. “There should be job training and career pathways to make sure that low- and moderate-income New Yorkers can also access these jobs and get skills and go up the career ladder.”
Columbia said its expansion will create 6,000 new jobs, more than half for administrative assistants, groundskeepers, mechanics, lab technicians, cooks and cashiers, for instance.

“Our employment base is not as cyclical as many parts of the private economy, and our jobs aren’t moving off-shore,” Columbia president Lee Bollinger said. 


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