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Report reveals local economic impact of higher education

JONESBORO — Economic output from the area’s higher education institutions has remained steady or improved the past five years, according to a report from the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia.

The report revealed Clayton State University in Morrow, Gordon State College in Barnesville and the University of Georgia’s Griffin campus each contributed millions to the local economy.

UGA’s Griffin campus produced more than $34 million and provided 382 jobs locally in fiscal year 2012.

Gordon State contributed more than $141 million and provided 1,418 jobs in FY12. Spending by students accounted for $80 million of that total in the small town and in nearby communities.

Gordon State President Max Burns said the college is ranked fourth among the system’s state colleges in economic impact and jobs.

“These numbers show that Gordon State College continues to drive the local economy and contributes greatly to the regional economy while providing, most importantly, a quality education to thousands of students,” said Burns.

The latest numbers illustrate Gordon State’s growth over the past five years. It created 847 jobs and pumped $92 million into the local economy in FY07. Students contributed $52 million of that total.

Clayton State contributed some $184 million and 1,737 jobs, while students spent close to $88 million in FY07.

The economic impact grew to nearly $257 million and 2,377 jobs in FY12. Students accounted for about $124 million of the total output in the areas surrounding the university.

The impact study was conducted by Dr. Jeffrey M. Humphreys, the director of the Selig Center for Economic Growth in the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business. The annual report analyzes data collected between July 1, 2011, and June 30, 2012.

“Even in the worst economic times in a generation or two, our colleges and universities proved to be strong pillars and drivers of the economies of their host communities,” said Humphreys. “That’s due to rising demand for higher education regardless of the overall economic climate.”

Humphreys said the study focuses on spending and its economic impact but does not measure the value the university system adds in quality of life; the creation of a highly educated workforce, government and communities; or the overall health of communities.

Clayton State President Dr. Thomas Hynes agreed.

Clayton State ranked fourth among Georgia’s state universities in economic impact and jobs, he said. But that is part of a broader picture.

“As Dr. Humphreys observes, the data serve only as a hint of other impacts for our community,” said Hynes. “The data show report payments to artists in Spivey Hall, but not the value of bringing exceptional art to our community. It records the salaries of Clayton State AmeriCorps students serving in Clayton County Public Schools, but not the long term effects on students in Clayton County Schools who benefit from their tutoring.”