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Economic Impact of Private Higher Education on State Impressive and Significant

CHARLESTON, W.Va. --- The financial benefits of private higher education within the state include a direct economic impact of $345 million in business volume and a total or 6,258 jobs created throughout West Virginia, according to a study by WVICU and the WVU Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

The study measured several kinds of economic contributions within these communities, including direct, indirect and induced impacts. In addition to business volume and total number of jobs, the study calculated an economic output of over $308 million, employee compensation of $121 million, and state tax revenue of $7 million. Factored into these figures were student tuition and fees, income associated with students residing both on-campus and off-campus, and revenue generated from all individuals and businesses associated with the daily life of students.

Collectively, West Virginia's private institutions enroll over 11,500 students annually. Approximately 53 percent of all students at WVICU member institutions are West Virginia residents and 31.6 percent are first generation college students. Nearly 90 percent receive financial assistance and approximately 38 percent qualify under federal guidelines as being "financially in need."

Academic programs offered by WVICU institutions range from two year programs to baccalaureate and masters programs.

"These estimates are very conservative and do not include the economic contributions of graduates of these institutions who decide to reside in West Virginia," says Dr. Tom S. Witt, director of the West Virginia University Bureau of Business and Economic Research and co-author of the study.

Witt adds, "If one considers the role these institutions play in enhancing the human capital within the state, then the economic impacts would be considerably higher."

Although the primary purpose of the study was to better understand the impact of West Virginia's nine private colleges and universities on the state's economy, the qualitative findings may be more significant and noteworthy. For instance, private colleges and universities provide a wealth of athletic, cultural, and social activities that directly influence the overall vitality of their respective regions, even though the full impact of such intangible benefits is difficult to quantify. Other benefits communities include: the attractiveness of an area to businesses because of the local college or university; entrepreneurial startups owned and operated by faculty, staff, students, or alumni; hotel, restaurant, and gift shop business generated by visitors to the colleges; faculty, staff, and student funds deposited in local financial institutions; spending in the local communities by alumni and friends returning for special events such as homecomings and reunions; the relocation of alumni back to the region upon retirement; participation by students, faculty, and staff in faith-based and service organizations; and, health care benefits provided to faculty, staff, and even students.

The study concludes that the increased human capital provided by private colleges and universities to the state and their local communities likely constitutes their most important long-term economic benefit. All colleges have their own stories to tell and examples to give. For instance:

Elkins mayor Judy Guye was drawn to the town originally because of Davis & Elkins College. Stephen Foster, executive director of the Upshur County Development Authority, is a 1970 graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College. Kevin Taylor, chief of the Beckley Fire Department, received associate of science and bachelor of science degrees from Mountain State University. And, Robert Lallathin of Huntington was awarded Ohio Valley University's Young Alumnus of the Year award in 2005 for his success in creating a sales office for the Rainbow Vacuum Cleaner Company, whereby the office has grown from two employees to dozens of sales and support personnel in just three years.

Two-time Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist Ed Rabel recently returned to his alma mater, the University of Charleston, to serve as Special Assistant to Advancement. In addition to his duties at UC, Rabel is also busy as a public speaker and is featured on WSAZ's 5:30 p.m. edition on Fridays presenting, "The Rabel Report."

Besides these stories of successful, influential alumni are stories of current students directly impacting the immediate needs of their surrounding communities. Community service and involvement is integral to the mission of Appalachian Bible College. ABC requires students to participate in a structured program every semester, in which the students serve area churches, homeless shelters, youth mentoring programs, prison ministries, nursing home ministries, and women's shelters. Another ABC ministry, Alpine Ministries, attracts over 10,000 visitors each year to the Beckley region for camps, conferences, and outdoor recreation.

Likewise, the students of Alderson-Broaddus College are active in Habitat for Humanity, the American Red Cross, the Animal Friends of Barbour County, Operation Christmas Child, tutoring and mentoring school children through Project Isaac, and the list goes on. A-B also notes recent graduates who serve Barbour County as teachers, health care workers, municipal employees and elected officials, lay leaders in churches, and community volunteers.

Graduates who grew up out-of-state, but remain in West Virginia upon graduation also have unique stories to share. Ora Dixon, a 2003 graduate of the Master of Science in Strategic Leadership program at Mountain State University, grew up near Monroe, Louisiana, but now works in Shepherdstown, W. Va., for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Jefferson County, W. Va., resident also serves as a national Girl Scout coordinator.

Similarly, Wheeling Jesuit University graduate Dr. William "Bill" Eppich, originally from Cleveland, Ohio, accepted a job offer in southern West Virginia upon graduation. Today, he still resides in Logan, W. Va., runs the physical therapy clinic at Logan Regional Medical Center, and has recently hired two other WJU graduates to work with him.

In addition to the on-going work of current students and alumni, Wheeling Jesuit also houses the National Technology Transfer Center and the Center for Educational Technologies on-campus. NTTC provides a great number of resources including, but not limited to, seasonal healthy living tips to risk prevention tips to homeland security advice to summer science workshops for teachers.

Data used in the study include audited financial statements for fiscal year 2004 and extensive financial and demographic questionnaires submitted by each WVICU member institution. These data capture spending patterns of students, faculty, staff, visitors, and the institutions themselves and analyze them using statistical models generated specifically to measure the economic impact of non-profit organizations on their communities and regions. It is quite probable, given the conservative nature of these statistical models, that the true economic impact is actually higher in all categories and regions.

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