Columbus State’s Economic Impact Measured at $227 Million

COLUMBUS, Ga. – Even during tough economic times, Georgia’s public university system remains a powerful economic engine as chronicled in a newly released report that shows Columbus State University has a $226.8 million economic impact on the surrounding region.

CSU’s impact was part of a report from the Selig Center for Economic Growth in the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business that found the University System of Georgia had a $12.6 billion economic impact on the state’s economy during fiscal year 2010.

The FY2010 output impact of USG institutions on their regional economies was essentially flat compared to FY2009, reflecting both lower spending by USG institutions on operations and consequently smaller levels of spending by vendors and business that service the system’s 35 institutions. But the overall employment impact increased substantially, reflecting higher enrollments, more spending by students in labor-intensive economic sectors, and higher overall employment multipliers.

Columbus was a prime example of this development, as overall economic impact for 2010 dropped slightly from 2009, which was measured at $234.9 million. However, while CSU’s output impact dropped less than 3 percent, other impact estimates were up significantly: direct spending was up by about 6.5 percent and job impact CSU rose by 6 percent.

One interesting finding is that student spending became the largest source of jobs locally. Total employment impact attributed to student spending was 1,261 jobs versus 1,208 jobs from spending by CSU on wages and benefits. CSU spent more than $184 million locally in fiscal year 2010, the report said, and almost $96 million of that was directly from CSU’s 8,200 students. 

“Even in these trying economic times for higher education in the state of Georgia, it’s clear that we are making a profound economic difference in our community, and it’s encouraging to see that measured,” said Columbus State University President Tim Mescon. “Obviously, our most important impacts are the ones we make on individual students. That’s what we are most proud of.”

Systemwide, details of the study indicate that Georgia’s public higher education system generated 130,738 full- and part-time jobs. This was 3.4 percent of all the jobs in Georgia in FY2010, or about one job in 30.  Most of those jobs – 66 percent of them – are off-campus positions in the private or public sectors that exist because of the presence in the community of USG institutions. The remainder of the jobs (34 percent) are on campus. 

The Selig Center analyzed data collected between July 1, 2009, and June 30, 2010, to calculate the University system’s FY2010 economic impact. The report updates similar studies conducted on behalf of the Intellectual Capital Partnership Program, an initiative of the USG Office of Economic Development. The first study in the series calculated the USG’s impact at $7.7 billion in FY1999; the FY2010 economic impact of $12.6 billion is a nearly $5 billion increase since FY1999 – a growth of 64 percent in the system’s economic impact on Georgia’s communities.

“Colleges and universities are key drivers in economic development,” said study author Dr. Jeffrey M. Humphreys, director of economic forecasting for the Selig Center. “Higher education institutions educate the workforce, innovate through basic and applied research, and collaborate with employers to help them become more competitive.”

Initial spending by USG institutions equaled $9.1 billion, or 72 percent of the total. This spending included salaries and fringe benefits, operating supplies and expenses, and other budgeted expenditures. When combined with spending by students who attended the institutions in FY2010, total initial spending accounted for the lion’s share of the $12.6 billion in overall economic impact. The remaining $3.5 billion (28 percent) in economic impact was created by re-spending – the multiplier effect of those dollars as they are spent again in the region.

In addition to statewide economic impact, the report quantifies the significant contributions that each of Georgia’s 35 public colleges and universities makes to the local economy of its host community. Researchers found that, on average, for every dollar of initial spending by a USG institution in its host community, an additional 38 cents was generated for the local economy.

To download the Selig Center’s FY2010 report, visit http://www.icapp.org/pubs/usg_impact_fy2010.pdf.