Smart money

College funds: A study released on April 5 shows that UNCA makes a $268 million economic impact in the Asheville area. Student spending alone contributes $30 million annually to the local economy. Caitlin Byrd
College funds: A study released on April 5 shows that UNCA makes a $268 million economic impact in the Asheville area. Student spending alone contributes $30 million annually to the local economy. Caitlin Byrd

UNCA attracts more than degree-seeking students to the Asheville area: It sparks a $268 million economic impact, according to a recent study.

The findings come from local research economist Tom Tveidt of SYNEVA Economics. He once led the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce's economic-development research, and calls UNCA a “key driver of economic growth in Western North Carolina.”

In a press release from the university, he says, “Now, as the creative sector in Asheville has grown more important, the university’s economic value to the area has also grown.”

UNCA last commissioned an Economic Impact Study in 1995. At that time, the university's total economic impact (when adjusted for inflation) was about $100 million less than its impact on the region today. The study used spending as the primary factor to measure economic activity, and calculated UNCA's total economic impact by looking at five major economic components: campus operations, student spending, outside visitors, graduate education premium and annual new resident attraction.

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  1. Tax Payer

    While UNCA is releasing information on its economic impact, it might also want to discuss some of its own economic footprint. A small example: the university’s non-profit foundation reported that it raised about $2 million for 2011. The Foundation states that it “does not currently have employees. All persons providing services to the Foundation are employees of the University of North Carolina at Asheville. The value of these services is recorded as a noncash contribution.” The salaries of those directly involved with raising funds (excluding the salaries of those raising funds for the athletic program and of the Chancellor, who should be devoting some of her time to fundraising) is approximately $1 million. (For 2010, the Foundation reported its revenue at approximately $4 million, so a decline in 2011.) So is it costing the taxpayers $1 million to raise $2 to $4 million? Is that an appropriate ROR? Rough comparisons indicate that Western Carolina’s development operation is costing the taxpayers $500,000 and generating about $5 million. The North Carolina School of the Arts development department pays about $600,000 in state-supported salaries and in 2011 reported $9 million in revenue.

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