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Press Release

North Carolina’s institutions of higher education deliver a solid return on investment for their students and the state, according to the first-ever statewide analysis of higher education’s impact on the state’s economy. The University of North Carolina system, the North Carolina Community College System and the 36 campuses of North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities in the state together created $63.5 billion in added economic value during fiscal year 2012-13, finds the study conducted by Economic Modeling Specialists International (EMSI).

The study also finds that while taxpayers invested $4.3 billion to support higher education in North Carolina during fiscal year 2012-13, the return on that investment totaled $17 billion.

Higher education is a key economic driver in North Carolina, the study found, with business and industry relying on the state’s education institutions to produce skilled employees and foster innovation and entrepreneurship. North Carolina colleges and universities also generate strong returns on investment for students, who benefit from higher lifetime earnings, and communities across the state, which realize societal savings, according to the study.

NC Community College System

The state’s community colleges are often cited for the cost savings they offer students and families, and the impact of these lower-cost educational and skill development programs are evident in the impact on alumni wages outlined in the study. Today, 40 percent of North Carolina wage earners have received education or training at a North Carolina community college during the last 10 years. The accumulated contribution of former students totaled $19.6 billion in added state income, which is equivalent to creating more than 322,000 new jobs, according to the study.

“The impact of higher education in our state is impressive, with each of our education institutions bringing different strengths to the mix,” says NC Community College System President Dr. Scott Ralls. “Our community colleges are known for their job-focused educational offerings, and this study demonstrates that our students play a significant role in our state’s economic success through the skills they attain at our community colleges.”

University of North Carolina

The UNC System’s 16 universities, which enroll nearly 222,000 students and confer more than 70 percent of all undergraduate and graduate degrees in the state, together generated $27.9 billion of added state income, equivalent to creating more than 426,000 new jobs.  The study confirms that their greatest contribution to the state’s economy is providing a more highly skilled, more productive, and more adaptable workforce for the state. UNC alumni contributed $17.9 billion of added income to the state. The study also helps quantify the growing economic impact of the UNC System’s medical clinical operations and highlights increased efforts to commercialize the research being conducted on UNC campuses. In combination, the added state income created through UNC medical operations, faculty research, and related inventions, patents, and start-up companies totals $5.2 billion and is equivalent to creating more than 57,000 new jobs in the state.

“The UNC System is a treasure this state has built over many generations, and 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,” said UNC President Thomas W. Ross.  “As confirmed by this study, it continues to deliver a solid and dependable return on investment for students, North Carolina communities, and the taxpayers. We are working more closely than ever before with the community colleges and the state’s private colleges and universities to leverage our respective strengths and resources for the benefit of students and the state.

North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities (NCICU)

The 36 campuses of North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities (NCICU), which together enroll almost 90,000 students from around the world, generated a combined $14.2 billion in added state income during the period studied, the study found. This includes more than $4 billion in payroll and benefits for 66,309 full-time and part-time employees, and $6.8 billion in goods and services to carry out day-to-day operations, research and clinical activities. The rest comes from construction and the spending of students, visitors, start-up companies and alumni, all of which create more spending and employment across the state. The added state income, or additional gross state product, of $14.2 billion created by NCICU’s institutions is equal to approximately 3.2 percent of the state’s total and is equivalent to creating 219,590 new jobs.

“Private higher education has been a critical part of North Carolina’s economy for more than two hundred years and that impact continues to grow as we increase partnerships with our public higher education partners,” said NCICU President A. Hope Williams. “From our small liberal arts colleges to our comprehensive and research universities, private higher education affects all aspects of the quality of life of North Carolina citizens.”

Read the full report online.

The estimated economic impacts cited in the study are conservative, the researchers said. The data and assumptions used are based on 2012-13 academic and financial reports from the higher education institutions, industry and employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau, and additional sources.

The study was funded by the North Carolina Business Higher Ed Foundation, the NC Community Colleges Foundation, the University of North Carolina system (from non-state funds) and the 36 campuses of North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities.

About EMSI

Economic Modeling Specialists International turns labor market data into useful information that helps organizations understand the connection between economies, people and work. Since 2000, EMSI has completed numerous economic impact studies for educational institutions across the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. It also provides industry-leading labor market data via software and reports to higher education professionals, workforce planners and regional developers in the United States and internation­ally. Its website is at www.economicmodeling.com.