Public Institutions of Higher Education in Western North Carolina Report Economic Impact for 2012-13

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UNC Asheville Chancellor Mary K. Grant, WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher and A-B Tech President Dennis F. King joined other educational leaders in the WNC region in a collaborative celebration at the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 20.

Public higher education institutions in Western North Carolina are responsible for injecting at least $2 billion into the state economy during the 2012-13 fiscal year through the combined impact of payroll, operational, construction and research expenditures by universities and community colleges, and the spending habits of their students, visitors and alumni. Of this $2 billion, roughly 75 percent or $1.52 billion stays right here in the 11 counties of WNC (Buncombe, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, Swain and Transylvania).

Those are among the findings of a comprehensive study conducted by Economic Modeling Specialists International (EMSI) to examine the impact of higher education on North Carolina. The EMSI study examined the combined impact of the University of North Carolina system, North Carolina Community College system and private institutions, and also assessed the impact of individual UNC campuses, private colleges and community colleges on their local economies.

“I am a proud product of North Carolina’s public higher education system, as are my wife and my children, so I know first-hand of the value that the UNC system and the North Carolina Community College system bring to the people of North Carolina,” said N.C. Sen. Tom Apodaca. “From laid-off factory workers seeking retraining at their local community colleges so they can re-enter the workforce of the 21st century to first-generation college students finding a welcoming environment at our regional universities, the people of our communities benefit tremendously from public higher education. The results of this economic impact study also show the impact that these institutions are having on our state and regional businesses and on society as a whole.”

“All the findings of this study underscore why getting more North Carolinians better educated is critical to meeting the workforce needs of our businesses, moving people out of poverty, enhancing North Carolina’s economic strength and competitiveness, and improving the health of our residents.  It also confirms that along with our community college partners, UNC Asheville and Western Carolina University are important catalysts for supporting sustainable economic development in the western part of the state,” said UNC System President Thomas. W. Ross.

Click to view regional impact of UNC Asheville

Educational leaders in the WNC region joined together on Feb. 20, in a collaborative celebration at the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, to share specific impacts, including added income, equivalent job creation and the benefits generated for students, taxpayers, and North Carolina as a whole.

“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 UNC Asheville Chancellor Mary K. Grant.

“This study demonstrates how vital public higher education is to North Carolina’s economy,” said UNC Asheville Board of Trustees Chair King Prather. “It’s compelling evidence that UNC Asheville, as a great liberal arts university, is an engine of regional growth and economic vitality, and contributes meaningfully to the economic, social and environmental sustainability and health of the state.”

“It has been no secret that Western Carolina University and our UNC system, community college and private institution partners in higher education are engines of economic and community development for the communities and regions we serve,” WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher said.

“It is heartening to read the results of this study, which clearly demonstrates the incredible value that WCU and other institutions bring to the state and to the region. I trust that elected officials, taxpayers, students, parents, alumni, donors, and the business community will appreciate the exceptional return on investment our state and region receive when they invest in higher education, whether through appropriations, tax dollars, tuition and fees, or charitable contributions,” Belcher said.

The study factors in payroll and operations spending, together with construction spending and the spending of students, visitors and alumni. The initial spending of the universities, such as payroll and operations spending, or the goods and services to carry out day-to-day operations and research, creates a multiplier effect across other businesses throughout the regional and state economy, reported as additional economic activity in terms of gross regional or state product and the corresponding number of jobs created.  EMSI’s conservative approach to the calculations also takes into account the alternate use of funds for state dollars that could have been spent elsewhere in North Carolina to report the net impact of the universities and colleges.

Within this larger study, 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 A-B Tech President Dennis F. 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.”

Economic Impact Chart – Click to see a full-size, printable PDF.

To read the full higher education economic impact report for North Carolina, visit the University of North Carolina system news site.