$272 million: That’s Columbus State University’s regional economic impact, study says

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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – Columbus State University is a big economic engine in the Chattahoochee Valley. An annual study commissioned by the University System of Georgia and released in July gives us a clearer picture of just how big.

This year’s study estimates CSU’s regional economic impact as more than $272 million for fiscal year 2020, according to a university news release.

University president Chris Markwood said in a statement the university and community succeed together.

“As the Chattahoochee Valley thrives and grows, so does Columbus State University — and vice cersa,” Markwood said. “Our ecosystems are inextricably intertwined, and as a result, CSU takes its role as an educational, economic and workforce development leader in our community seriously.”

The University System of Georgia has a combined state-wide economic impact of $18.6 billion, a 0.6 percent growth from FY2019. Most of that, some $12.7 billion, is from direct spending. But $5.9 billion was “additional spending within local communities sparked by the presence of a USG institution,” according to the release.

Georgia’s universities are major employeers. The study said CSU generated 2,823 jobs in FY2020, and a third of them are on-campus positions. State-wide, USG generated 52,904 on-campus jobs and 102,106 off-campus jobs.

Those college degrees pay off. According to a companion study, people with USG degrees earn more than those who never take a degree.

CSU’s class of 2020 graduates are expected to earn more than $800,000 in their lifetime as a result of their degree. Graduates who work in Georgia can expect to earn $4.8 million in their lives, and $1.5 million of that is a result of their degree.

Acting Chancellor of the University System of Georgia Teresa MacCartney said in a statement the system’s schools are critical to the state’s economy.

“With strong support from the state and significant planning from our campuses, USG’s economic impact on local communities across Georgia held steady despite a challenging year,” MacCartney said. “At the same time, a degree from a USG institution continues to add real value to the lives of our graduates and their families. We remain focused on doing everything in our power to help more Georgians complete college and ensure our state has a well-prepared, highly skilled workforce to grow Georgia’s economy.”

CSU’s economic impact is down from last year, when the same study estimated it at $290 million. But Markwood pointed out universities continued to bolster local economies while weathering the challenges of a global pandemic.

“As the state budget constricted during FY20, universities like Columbus State operated more nimbly and creatively,” Markwood said. “That certainly is reflected in CSU’s economic and jobs impact during a year marked by the significant fiscal and operational challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The annual study is conducted by Jeffrey M. Humphreys, director of the Selig Center for Economic Growth in the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business, which also conducted the companion study on lifetime earnings.

You can find both studies in their entirety on the USG website.

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