Education

Study puts economic impact of NC colleges, universities at $63B

Posted February 18, 2015

North Carolina's public and private universities and community colleges add more than $63 billion a year to the state economy, according to a study released Feb. 18, 2015.
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— North Carolina's public and private universities and community colleges add more than $63 billion a year to the state economy, according to a study released Wednesday.

The study by Economic Modeling Specialists International found the state's 110 higher education institutions make up nearly 15 percent of North Carolina's economic output and generate a return of $3.90 for every tax dollar invested in students.

"We are pleased that this study demonstrates clearly that the taxpayers of North Carolina receive a significant return on their investment year after year, and we are proud that that is true for all the citizens of North Carolina, whether or not they attended one of our institutions," University of North Carolina President Tom Ross said.

The economic impact of higher education included spending at university-affiliated hospitals, visitor spending, research grants and the boost in earning power by alumni who work in North Carolina after graduation.

"North Carolina is a net importer of students. Many choose to stay and are great contributors to our economy," said Hope Williams, president of North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities.

Harvey Schmitt, president and chief executive of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, called a trained workforce "a differentiator" for regional economies. He said, for example, that the universities in the Triangle area have helped attract industry seeking to employ those graduates.

"Talent is the driver that decides where projects go," Schmitt said. "It is a driving element to the success of almost any economy today.”

North Carolina's higher education system is "a treasure that this state has built over many generations," Ross said, adding that it needs to be preserved.

"It has allowed North Carolina to prosper by producing great talent and attracting new businesses needed to build a strong economy and a better quality of life," he said.

The study cost about $450,000, and officials said it was paid for with private dollars, not taxpayer money.

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