College Towns Reap Benefits

How much does a community that hosts a University System of Georgia institution benefit from university- or college-related spending?

Georgia’s Intellectual Capital Partnership Program (ICAPP) sponsors a study I conduct annually that estimates the economic impact of college- or university-related spending. The fiscal year 2007 study was released earlier this summer. The total economic impact of all 35 USG institutions on their host communities was $11 billion in sales or output, $4.8 billion in income and 106,267 jobs.

One striking finding is that university-related spending creates far more jobs off the campus than it does on-campus. On average, for each on-campus job there are 1.4 off-campus jobs. That’s really not too surprising. After all, the private sector businesses operating in “college towns” are by far the biggest recipients of institution-related spending. Without exception, each institution is an economic linchpin of its host community.

These schools really prove their economic worth during recessions. That’s partly due to the relatively steady demand for higher education, even when the economy softens. Plus, spending by the institutions, their employees and students holds up fairly well during slowdowns. The economic activity associated with colleges and universities is certainly not recession proof, but it is recession resistant. Downturns in college- or university-related spending tend to be milder than those of the overall economy, but upturns also may be less pronounced. Such relative stability does make the overall economic environment of these towns less risky.

Statewide economic impact estimates – as well as estimates for many of the state’s research universities, regional universities and larger state colleges, such as the $585 billion generated by Kennesaw State University – have received much exposure in the media.

By contrast, economic impacts generated by many state universities, state colleges and two-year colleges have received far less attention. This is especially true for institutions not located in a major metropolitan area. Yet many small institutions have large economic impacts relative to the size of their host communities.

Here’s a quick look at the impacts generated by USG colleges and universities not located in one of the state’s large urban centers:

Georgia College and State University, Milledge-ville: The economic impact is $172 million; the employment impact is 1,855 jobs, with 714 on campus and 1,141 off-campus.

Georgia Southwestern State University, Americus: An economic impact of nearly $78 million and 793 jobs.

North Georgia College and State University, Dahlonega: An economic impact of $146 million. There are 472 on-campus jobs and 971 off-campus jobs that exist due to institution-related spending, creating a combined employment impact of 1,443 jobs.

Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Tifton: The total employment impact on Tifton’s economy is 1,005 jobs. That includes 373 on-campus jobs and 632 off-campus jobs. The institution’s economic impact on regional output or sales is $81 million.

Dalton State College: The economic impact is $88 million. The employment impact is 949 jobs, including 338 jobs on the campus and 611 off campus.

Middle Georgia College, Cochran: The college supports 839 jobs in Cochran’s regional economy; the institution’s economic impact exceeds $85 million.

Coastal Georgia Community College, Brunswick: The impact on the Brunswick region’s economy is $69 million in output and 695 jobs – 213 on-campus and 482 off-campus.

East Georgia College, Swainsboro: An economic impact exceeding $42 million and 471 jobs.

South Georgia College, Douglas: A $40 million economic impact with 121 on-campus jobs and 306 off-campus jobs, for a total of 427 jobs.

Waycross College: The economic impact is $20 million. The institution supports 77 jobs on the campus and 158 jobs off-campus, for a total of 235 jobs.

Many of those who live, work and do business in Georgia’s college towns already know their institution makes a substantial contribution to their lives, but the ICAPP study helps to quantify more precisely just how much college- or university-related spending is interwoven into the business fabric of the hometowns of USG institutions.

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