WCU contributes to North Carolina’s economy

A new study shows that public colleges and universities such as Western Carolina University provided $2 billion to the NC economy during the 2012-13 fiscal year. Of that, around 75 percent stayed in the 11 counties that make up Western North Carolina – Buncombe, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, Swain and Transylvania County.

WCU alone contributed $511.3 million into WNC’s economy. The study found that research at WCU generated $849,700 in added regional income, which is equivalent to creating 15 new jobs.

Meanwhile, WCU’s construction spending was $2.3 million, equivalent to 79 new jobs while spending by WCU undergraduate and graduate students who relocated to the region added approximately $39.9 million to the regional economy, equivalent to 895 new jobs. WCU alumni who are employed in the 11 county region amounted to $266.7 million in added regional income, equivalent to creating 5,643 new jobs.

Even visitors outside of the region are attracted to WNC . Because of activities at WCU spent  about $34.8 million at hotels, restaurants, gas stations and other regional businesses, equivalent to creating 897 new jobs.

With news like this, it’s no wonder why WCU’s Chancellor David Belcher, and other educational leaders in the region came together to celebrate the impact and reinforce the idea that higher education is needed.

UNCA Chancellor Mary Grant  and WCU Chancellor David Belcher, as he  speaks on higher education impact on state's economy.

UNCA Chancellor Mary Grant and WCU Chancellor David Belcher, as he speaks on higher education impact on state’s economy.

“That is the power of public higher education. That is the return on investment that your community colleges and state universities provide as a result of public investment,” said Belcher during the press conference held in at the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce.

State Sen. Terry Van Duyn (D-Buncombe) said that the results from the study came in the right time because the budget negotiations will be starting soon.

“What it does is it emphasizes the fact that these institutions are not islands. They contribute to the communities they exist in, and we need to nurture that,” Van Duyn added.

The research was conducted by Economic Modeling Specialists International (EMSI) studying 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.