NEW ALBANY — The results of a study released a few days ago estimated Indiana University Southeast added $219.9 million in income to the region’s economy in the 2018-19 fiscal year with 4,225 jobs supported.
That’s not really a surprise to One Southern Indiana President and CEO Wendy Dant Chesser, who heads the leading economic development entity for Clark and Floyd counties.
Chesser said a region’s ability to thrive economically “depends on a complete set of assets,” including higher education.
“We can have the best transportation system in the world, but without education, it’s of no benefit to us,” she said. “We could have fantastic companies that can’t fill all the jobs because they don’t have higher education to back them up. Economic development, community development and workforce development is a three-legged stool, and if you shorten any of those legs, the stability is threatened.”
But, she also can look at the issue from the perspective of students. She graduated from IUS in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in business management.
Chesser said her IUS education has made a big difference in her life. For her, achieving a high-quality degree while avoiding debt were among her considerations in attending IUS.
“As I graduated high school, IUS was a backup plan, and I did go away [to college] my first year,” she said. “I recognized that I could get a quality education without incurring debt by staying at home. I was the first in my immediate family to graduate college — I’m not sure that would have been possible if IUS had not been in the backyard.”
The campus’s $219.9 million impact is equal to about 1.3% of the total gross regional product of IUS’s service area, the study found. It also estimated that for every dollar invested at IUS, students gain $4.50 in lifetime earnings, taxpayers gain $0.90 in added tax revenue and public sector savings and society gains $6.70 in added state revenue and social savings. The study’s estimate was that for every $10,000 students invest in their education at IU Southeast, they will receive $45,000 in higher future earnings.
Indiana University commissioned an economic impact study for each campus, which was conducted by Emsi, a labor market analytics firm. The analysis covers a broad range of areas, including alumni impact, operations spending impact, student spending impact and investment analysis.
The analysis also shows that one out of every 51 jobs in the IUS service area is supported by the activities of IUS and its students.
“That might not sound like a lot, but when you start thinking about just how important that is, it really is very important to the economic lifeblood, the economic health of where we call home,” IUS Chancellor Ray Wallace said.
Wallace notes that the study is a somewhat conservative measure of the university’s economic impact.
“While these are conservative estimates, they are also quite scientific, and we’re pleased that we are impacting the community in all these ways,” Wallace said. “We’ve done a good job in terms of selling the importance of IU Southeast to obviously the southern counties here in Indiana and across the Louisville and some of the Kentucky counties.”
Kelly Ryan, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at IUS, said the campus is “vital to growing and maintaining our economy.”
“The interactions of visitors to our campus, the economic stimulus from the individuals that we employ and the students we educate have profound impacts on this region, and that investment in your education as an individual or through the state with taxation has just incredible benefits — to the individual, the community and the state,” she said.
Ryan said the study shows that students graduating from IUS are seeing a “dramatic change in their outcomes” versus those graduating only with a high school diploma. The study estimates that students who graduate from IUS will make $19,800 more each year compared to an individual with a high school diploma working in Indiana.
Graduating students are seeing an “immediate and profound impact on their lives” for “every dollar they are spending on education,” Ryan said.
“What they’re seeing immediately are income earnings,” she said. “Their investment in themselves is paying off, but there’s so much about what IU Southeast is doing to this community that can seem invisible — the health outcomes, the happiness outcomes, individuals who are engaged in the community, increasing voter participation…attending arts and entertainment events. It’s just an immediate and profound impact on their lives.”
Chesser worked full-time while attending IUS, and she attended night classes for the majority of the time, she said. Although she incurred some debt from attending the University of Florida her first year of college, she didn’t incur debt at IUS, making it easier to start her career, she said.
For Chesser, her IUS education has been beneficial while working in Southern Indiana with 1si, since she has been able to interact and work on a professional basis with former college professors and advisers, she said.
Wallace said the campus is growing in the amount of graduate degrees offered, and in another eight to 10 years, he expects even higher numbers in terms of economic impact.
“It doesn’t hurt us that we are developing face-to-face and online degree programs for this rather large community,” he said.
According to the study, the impact of annual payroll and other operations spending for the 2018-19 fiscal year at IUS amounted to $40.1 million in added income, or 1,127 jobs supported.
Dana Wavle, vice chancellor for administrative affairs at IUS, said the campus is showing a major regional economic impact as both an employer and educational institution preparing students for the workforce.
“If you look at our campus mission, our mission is to not only employ people, but also to create new well-trained, well-educated employees for other regional employers. So essentially, the educational mission here at the campus and what we do to create these employees, that’s a big impact as well.”
“It’s a really large return on investment, not only for the student in terms of future earnings, but also for the taxpayers, mainly of Indiana, but it does have an impact on Kentucky as well,” Wavle said.
Wallace said the campus’s alumni impact for 2018-19 is “quite impressive” at $174.8 million in added income, or 2,971 jobs supported. He also emphasizes that almost 90 percent of IUS graduates are staying in the region.
Chesser emphasized the economic importance of having an IU campus located in Southern Indiana.
“Having a regional campus of such a prestigious university helps us not only in attracting new companies to the area — it’s also helping those existing companies with the talent and skills they may be looking for,” Chesser said. “It appears that the majority of IUS grads remain in the region, and that ensures that the education of our existing workforce based here is not only credentialed with a degree, but with high-quality degree.”
The analysis estimates a student spending impact of $3.8 million in added income, a construction spending impact of $861,000 and a visitor spending impact of $338,000.
“When you start looking at people going to the Ogle Center, and you start looking at parents and fans going to all our sports events, you start to see these people are buying a lot of burgers, buying a lot of hotel rooms — this is pretty good,” Wallace said. “We’re quite pleased with the results.”
As the campus adjusts operations to the COVID-19 pandemic, many events have been cancelled, and many students are learning in an virtual or hybrid format. However, that doesn’t mean the campus is closed, Wallace said.
“Yes, it’s different, but no one honestly knows what the economic impact of this COVID will be… and I will say, students, faculty, staff are still buying burgers, still buying cars, still employed, and that’s vitally important that everyone realizes this,” he said. “Everyone is employed and working hard here.”