Higher Education Institutions across North Carolina contribute over $60 billion to the state’s economy, according to a new study.
Don Hobart, Associate Vice Chancellor for Research at UNC, says the flagship university’s impact on the economy is felt across the Tar Heel state.
“UNC-Chapel Hill actually represents around $7.1 billion. That’s both the university and the hospital and faculty positions here,” he says. “It’s fair to say that UNC-Chapel Hill is really a powerhouse, in terms of its economic impact and its significance to the economy, in North Carolina.”
Hobart says a variety of factors were considered to reach the $7 billion impact.
“The economic impact of the university’s operations, the research spending that it does, the construction activity that takes place,” he says. “[The study] also looked at spending that was brought to the state. And then a portion of that activity was the impact of the UNC Health Care Medical Center.
He says this speaks to the value of the research being done at Carolina.
“We’ve got doctors who are discovering cures for diseases. We’ve got people inventing techniques to improve the quality of materials in products,” he says. “This study looks specifically at what the economic impact, within North Carolina, of having that type of research activity occurring would be.
“The added income to North Carolina’s economy that results from this research activity is close to $1 billion, annually.”
The economic impact report was released on Wednesday; the same day that a Board of Governor’s committee recommended cutting three centers and institutes from the University System. Hobart says this study shows the work these centers do has a positive impact on society and the economy.
“One of the valuable things that comes out of this analysis, is that it certainly validates the emphasis that the university has placed on centers and institutes,” he says. “The research centers, here on campus, are a major part of our effort to translate the work that gets done in labs and the classroom out into the economy.”
He adds this is one area that is a safe investment.
“Spending on higher education is an example of the spending of taxpayer dollars that actually pays the state treasury back,” he says.
According to UNC’s website, the state budget allots nearly $2.5 billion to fund the 17-campus University System.
Overall, the study found that the UNC System had an economic impact of nearly $28 billion in added state income. The entire higher education system – community colleges, private institutions, and the UNC System – in the state contributes $63.5 billion. That is an equivalent of just over 1,000,000 jobs.
For comparison’s sake, agriculture – the largest industry in North Carolina’s economy – contributes nearly $78 billion to the state economy, according to Department of Agriculture Spokesperson Brian Long. He adds that is an estimated 17 percent of the gross state income.