Midstate public colleges pump $728 million into economy

jmink@macon.comJuly 10, 2013 

State colleges and universities are pumping more money into the economy, according to a study released Wednesday by the University System of Georgia.

The study reviewed the system’s 35 institutions for fiscal 2012, including five colleges and universities in the midstate. Statewide, the 35 institutions contributed about $14.1 billion to the economy last year -- a 7.4 percent, or $980 million, increase from the previous year. The economic impact has doubled since the analysis was first conducted in 1999, according to the study.

Regionally, the five midstate University System of Georgia institutions contributed about $728 million into the local economy, which was about the same compared to 2011, according to a Telegraph analysis. Some regional colleges and universities had a bigger impact in 2012 compared to the previous year, while others dipped.

Georgia College & State University posted the largest increase among midstate colleges. The Milledgeville-based institution contributed more than $203 million to the economy, a $20 million jump from 2011. The study measured economic impact based on salaries, benefits, supplies and other spending, as well as student spending and money spent on capital projects, according to the study.

Georgia College’s major impact includes more than 800 jobs on campus and 1,600 off campus, which were created as a result of student and college employee spending, Johnny Grant, director of community engagement and economic development at Georgia College, said in a news release.

Over the past two years, Georgia College’s economic impact has grown by 14 percent, Ben Scafidi, economics professor and director of the Economics of Education Policy Center, said in the release.

“Given the large growth in its financial impact in recent years, Georgia College appears to be the most significant economic engine in Baldwin and surrounding counties,” Scafidi said.

Fort Valley State University’s economic impact also increased from about $151 million in fiscal 2011 to about $157 million in fiscal 2012. Gordon College, based in Barnesville, dropped to $141.5 million in 2012 from about $154 million in 2011, the study shows.

The former Macon State and Middle Georgia colleges posted a $150 million and a $76 million impact, respectively, for a total impact of nearly $226 million for the newly-merged Middle Georgia State College. The numbers for each of the colleges were down slightly from 2011, when Macon State had a $157 million impact and Middle Georgia reported about $83 million.

Still, a $226 million economic boost is a significant impact for the new college, Interim President John Black said in a news release. Middle Georgia State opened in January after Macon State and Middle Georgia colleges consolidated.

Middle Georgia State was responsible for 2,579 jobs in 14 counties, including on-campus jobs and off-campus employment generated by college spending, the study shows.

“In this time of high unemployment, 2,579 jobs is huge,” Black said. “In addition, many of this year’s 1,400-plus graduates will stay in the Middle Georgia area and make significant contributions economically and socially.”

To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 256-9751.

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