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SUNY a wealth of knowledge and revenue

State University of New York Chancellor Nancy Zimpher speaks about the economic benefits the public university system provides to the state at last week’s “How SUNY Matters” presentation. Photo by Justin McCarthy.
June 06, 2011
A new report reveals the state's public higher education system

has the potential to have a greater influence on New York's economy.

The University at Albany's Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government and the University at Buffalo Research Institute unveiled the report called "How SUNY Matters," which concludes the State University of New York had an economic impact of at least $19.8 billion for the 2008-2009 academic year.

"The report folds into our ambition to be the economic engine for the state of New York by proof of concept," said SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher. "Gov. Cuomo has embraced our role in economic development, so this report speaks to that. This report speaks to academic rigor, the validity and reliability of the measures we are using so that we can align our multiple economic development impact reports into a single set of metrics."

According to the report, there are 2,132,600 SUNY students, faculty and alumni in New York state. The university system brought in $10.3 billion in 2008-2009 from revenues, including tuition and fees, auxiliary service payments, external grants and contracts and state appropriations.

In that same year, students, employees and overnight visitors spent $13.6 billion on things such as off-campus housing, food, entertainment, transportation and books, bringing revenue to each SUNY campus and businesses in the community. According to the report, each SUNY student spends $5,100 a year on the aforementioned items.

According to Kathryn Foster, director of the UB Research Institute, for every dollar invested in public higher education, there is a return of $5.10.

SUNY's economic impact may have something to do with the abundance of campuses in the state. According to SUNY, almost every New Yorker is within 30 miles of a state campus.

"SUNY campuses cover most parts of New York state. You have to be pretty much in the center of the Adirondack Park without a SUNY campus close by," said Foster.

The economic impact of SUNY campuses is even greater near the nine state campuses that do not have a private university or a community college in the area: Fredonia, Geneseo, Oswego, Cortland, Morrisville, Delhi, Cobleskill, New Paltz and Plattsburgh.

The report found that in these communities, residents are younger, more ethnically diverse and more likely to have at least a bachelor's degree or be enrolled in higher education. These communities also have more businesses in walking distance, less vacant housing and residents who are more likely to work in the county in which they reside.

The state's public higher education system also brings jobs to the state. For example, SUNY provides 173,000 jobs statewide. Also, the report says SUNY students are being educated in a system that prepares them to be qualified for desired employment after graduation. SUNY grads meet the requirements to fill 40 percent of jobs in New York that require a college degree or advanced skills.

Some students decide to stay near their alma mater after graduating, which can benefit the state economy. In the Capital District alone, 166,000 SUNY alumni stayed in the area after receiving a degree.

"Simply by their numbers and their training, there are enough SUNY alumni in the Capital District to fill over 70 percent of the jobs in law and public service that are needed in this area," said Foster.

Rockefeller Institute Director Thomas Gais calls SUNY's university centers business incubators for the state. Some of the research done at these campuses attracts the private sector to the public university. For example, the University at Albany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering has brought in nearly $6 billion in private investment.

Though SUNY has seen much success in impacting the state's economy, the study finds the state university system has even more potential to drive New York's economy.

"Our study found that SUNY already has an extensive and diverse base of initiatives," said Gais. "To build on that, economic development initiatives may emerge out of a wide variety of circumstances." He said "incremental efforts can be pyramided into large economic impacts and that certain characteristics of the SUNY system may be especially useful in facilitating entrepreneurialism and economic growth."

  1. print email
    June 06, 2011 | 10:15 PM

    And yet SUNY schools are so low ranked. We have to get our system up to the level of Texas (A&M and Uni of) and the UC system

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