Making a monetary mark: economic impact

Friday, October 6, 2006

SCSU students, faculty members and staff feel strongly about the importance of participating in positive ways, including volunteerism, in community life.  Now a figure has been put on another way the university impacts St. Cloud and the region - economically.

The state's appropriation to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system returns $3.5 billion a year to the state's economy, a figure which includes SCSU's impact of $369.4 million a year on the region.

The St. Cloud Times did an excellent job, in its front-page story on Wednesday, Oct. 4, of telling the complete story, below.

SCSU tops list's schools for economic impact

By Dawn Peake

The St. Cloud area sees the impact of St. Cloud State University in Husky hockey games, pizza deliveries, bar sales and jobs. Now a new study quantifies the total economic contribution.

St. Cloud State University has a $369.4 million impact on the area economy, according to a study released this fall by Wilder Research.

That puts the local university ahead of six others in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system: Minnesota State University-Mankato, Winona State University, Minnesota State University-Moorhead, Metropolitan State University, Southwest Minnesota State University and Bemidji State University, according to the study done by Paul Anton.

Anton is the chief economist for Wilder, who conducted the study for MnSCU.

Previous study

"I would like to claim we're the flagship of the state university system, but we probably share that with Minnesota State University-Mankato," said Rich MacDonald, a St. Cloud State economist who conducted a similar study last year. "We're a very important player in the state's university system."

His study estimated St. Cloud State's total impact at $314.8 million, accounting for about 3 percent of the overall economy in Stearns and Benton counties. Given the methodology of impact studies, MacDonald sees the studies offering similar results.

The Wilder study considered the direct spending of each institution, additional spending caused by those expenditures, and student and visitor spending in 2005.

The total economic impact of MnSCU tops $3.5 billion a year, according to the study.

"There is no question that the state's investment in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities pays real dividends to the state," Chancellor James H. McCormick told the Board of Trustees in his annual State of the System speech in September. "By educating our students, our system enhances the productivity of the state's work force."

St. Cloud State students spend about $98.78 million a year, including room, board and personal expenses, according to the Wilder study. Only MSU-Mankato comes close, with its students spending $89 million.

The study estimates the university's visitors pour about $11.82 million into the local economy. That's at least twice as much as each of the six other institutions, except MSU-Mankato, which tops $10.52 million.

A statewide impact

The MnSCU system includes 32 state universities and community and technical colleges.

About $2.4 billion of the total state impact stems from enhanced productivity of Minnesota workers who received degrees or training at colleges and universities, McCormick said.

Upgrades and expansions at state facilities also boost their impact. The report found that during the past four years, construction spending on the system's 53 campuses generated an average of $243 million per year of economic activity and the equivalent of more than 2,500 full-time jobs a year in Minnesota.

The study estimated this year's $191.4 million bonding bill will generate about $430 million in statewide economic activity and the equivalent of 2,150 full-time jobs in the next two years.

- Marge Proell

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