Local area colleges are touting just how much they pump back into the economy: $2 billion in the 2012-2013 fiscal year through the combined impact of payroll, operational, construction and research expenditures by the universities and community colleges, and the spending habits of their students, visitors, and alumni. The data comes from a new comprehensive study conducted by Economic Modeling Specialists International (EMSI) to examine the impact of higher education on North Carolina.
Educators, politicians and local business leaders gathered at the Asheville Chamber of Commerce Feb. 20 to hear details of the study, given by UNC Asheville Chancellor Mary Grant, WCU Chancellor David Belcher and A-B Tech President Dennis King.
The study showed that of the $2 billion, roughly 75 percent, or $1.52 billion, stays right here in the 11 counties of Western North Carolina.
“This study makes real for all of us the extraordinary long-term benefits to North Carolina of investing in top-quality higher education. The financial return-on-investment is substantial, but it is really only part of the story. Graduates from all of our institutions are making a crucial difference in the civic and social fabric of our society, every single day,” said Grant.
Western Carolina University, UNC Asheville, A-B Tech Community College, Blue Ridge Community College, Haywood Community College, Southwestern Community College and Tri-County Community College reported regional impact for the counties of Buncombe, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, Swain and Transylvania.
“This study verifies that North Carolina’s 58 community colleges play a significant role in the economy of our state, particularly here in Western North Carolina,” said King. “In collaboration with our regional higher education partners and employers, community colleges prepare thousands of students each year for jobs and careers with businesses and industries throughout the state. These numbers verify that our graduates comprise a significant portion of an educated workforce that fuels the success of many economic sectors, including advanced manufacturing, aviation, brewing, health care, hospitality and technology.”
Earlier this week, Swannanoa-based private school Warren Wilson College also noted the findings of the study.