WNC colleges return $2 billion to economy, most staying in region

The numbers are in: from left to right, A-B Tech President Dennis King, UNC Asheville Chancellor Mary Grant, and WCU Chancellor David Belcher.

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.

It's not all serious: from left to right, UNC Asheville Chancellor Mary Grant, A-B Tech President Dennis King, WCU Chancellor David Belcher, and State Rep. Joe Sam Queen reflect the mood of the good news during the meeting.
It’s not all serious: from left to right, UNC Asheville Chancellor Mary Grant, A-B Tech President Dennis King, WCU Chancellor David Belcher, and State Rep. Joe Sam Queen reflect the mood of the good news during the meeting.
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About Pat Barcas
Pat is a photojournalist and writer who moved to Asheville in 2014. He previously worked for a labor and social rights advocacy newspaper in Chicago. Email him at pbarcas@gmail.com. Follow me @pbarcas

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2 thoughts on “WNC colleges return $2 billion to economy, most staying in region

  1. Jim

    Really? But if student loans are forgiven and the taxpayer is on the hook, the 2 billion is nothing. Especially when there ‘s 1.2 trillion in loan debt. So tell me again how turning colleges into cash cows while crippling students with debt is a good thing? Kicking the can down the road only works as long as the road doesn’t turn into a dead end.

    • Curious

      Under what circumstances can student loans be forgiven? I know people with student loans who would like to know.

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