CSU's Economic Impact On Region Estimated At $224 Million

COLUMBUS, Ga. — A new state study estimates a total economic impact of $224 million by Columbus State University on the region it serves, an increase of $30 million since last year’s study.

The figures, released today in the midst of a severe economic downturn, show Georgia’s public university system continues to be one of the state’s major economic engines. Together, the 35 institutions of the University System of Georgia (USG) made a $12.1 billion economic impact on the state’s economy during Fiscal Year 2008.

“These figures show the impact that higher education has on the economic health of our state,” said Columbus State University President Tim Mescon. “Nowhere is that more true than here, where Columbus State University remains committed to serving this region. That will continue as the Kia plant comes online, and as BRAC brings thousands of new residents here. We’re actively seeking ways to improve our partnerships with West Point, and Fort Benning, including through an ICAPP simulation program that will aid military training for our soldiers.”

The Selig Center for Economic Growth in the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business analyzed data collected between July 1, 2007, and June 30, 2008, to calculate the University System’s FY2008 economic impact. This work updates a similar studies conducted on behalf of The Intellectual Capital Partnership Program (ICAPP), an initiative of the Board of Regents’ Office of Economic Development. The previous report, based on FY2007 data, placed the USG’s economic impact at $11 billion. The first study in the series calculated the USG’s impact at $7.7 billion in FY1999. The latest $12.1 billion thus is a $4.4 billion increase since FY 1999 – or a growth of 57 percent in the system’s economic impact on Georgia’s communities.

In addition to the $12.1 billion in total impact generated by the University System in FY2008, the study determined that Georgia’s public higher education system is responsible for 108,405 full- and part-time jobs – 2.6 percent of all the jobs in the state – while approximately 39 percent of these positions are on-campus jobs, a majority – 61 percent – are positions in the private or public sectors that exist because of the presence in the community of USG institutions.

Locally, Columbus State’s $224.2 million dollars in “output impact” translates into 2,388 jobs on campus or created off campus as a result of institution-related spending. “It’s nice to see our economic impact quantified, but we can’t lose sight of our educational and cultural impact that is equally valuable,” Mescon said.

The output impact – which includes spending, salaries and benefits, operating expenses and supplies as well as spending by students who attend CSU – was calculated to be $211.8 million in fiscal year 2007, up from $174.3 million in 2005.

“While our research has consistently shown the important economic contributions public colleges and universities make to communities and the state, this latest study supports the argument that the University System can play an important role in helping Georgia’s economy recover,” said study author Jeffrey M. Humphreys, director of economic forecasting for the Selig Center. “For each job created on a campus, there are 1.6 jobs that exist off-campus because of spending related to the college or university. These economic impacts demonstrate that continued emphasis on colleges and universities as a pillar of the state’s economy translates into jobs, higher incomes and greater production of goods and services for local households and businesses.”

Humphreys’ report quantifies the economic benefits that the University System of Georgia’s institutions convey to the communities in which they are located. He determined that $8 billion (66 percent) of the $12.1 billion in total economic impact was due to initial spending by USG institutions for salaries and fringe benefits, operating supplies and expenses, and other budgeted expenditures, as well as spending by the students who attended the institutions in FY2008. Re-spending — the multiplier effect of those dollars as they are spent again in the region — accounted for another $4.1 billion (34 percent). Researchers found that, on average, for every dollar of initial spending in a community by a University System institution, an additional 51 cents was generated for the local economy hosting a college or university.

The Selig Center’s research has its limitations – it neither quantifies the many long-term benefits that a higher-education institution imparts to its host community’s economic development nor does it measure intangible benefits, such as cultural opportunities, intellectual stimulation and volunteer work, to local residents. Spending by USG retirees who still live in the host communities and by visitors to USG institutions (such as those attending conferences or athletic events) is not measured, nor are additional sources of income for USG employees, such as consulting work, personal business activities and inheritances.

For more information, access the Selig Center’s FY2008 report.