GRCC’s economic impact tops $447M


A recent economic impact study found Grand Rapids Community College had a total impact of $447.7 million on Kent and Ottawa counties in the 2015-16 fiscal year.

The study was done by EMSI, a provider of economic impact studies and labor market data, using GRCC financial and academic data and reports from the U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The report was promising overall, saying the college creates a “significant positive impact” on the business communities in both counties.

“It’s an important thing for us to measure,” said Lisa Freiburger, GRCC vice president of finance and administration. “It’s an important thing for us to be able to share with our community.

“Clearly, this report shows how interwoven we are in the fabric of this community.”

GRCC added $413.5 million in total income to the Kent County economy, which is 1 percent of the total gross regional product:

  • GRCC expenditures for payroll and day-to-day operations had a net impact of $102.2 million.

  • GRCC students' expenditures added $15.3 million in income.

  • Net economic impact of GRCC alumni now employed in the county was $296 million.

GRCC’s net economic impact in Ottawa County was $34.2 million:

  • The money GRCC spends on payroll and daily operations had a net impact of $5.3 million.

  • GRCC students' expenditures added $2.7 million in income.

  • The increased productivity of GRCC alumni now employed in the county had a net impact of $26.2 million.

During the time of the study, there were more than 28,000 students and 1,785 full- and part-time employees.

Freiburger said it’s difficult to measure the number of alumni in the community, especially since “alumni” has a different meaning for a community college, where many students do not officially graduate but may take a class for a job, certification or pleasure. There were 1,792 graduates during the year of the study.

She made the point, however, that many residents in the region have been GRCC students, and if not, they likely know someone who has been.

Besides direct monetary impact, the report also measured return on investment:

  • For every $1 spent by GRCC students, they gain $4.70 in lifetime earnings. Expenditures included $51.8 million in educational expenses and $66.7 million in opportunity cost, giving a return of $561.9 million over their working lives.

  • For every $1 spent by taxpayers, they gain $4 in added taxes and public sector savings. State and local taxpayers paid $64.3 million to support GRCC, giving a return of $240.3 million and an additional $14.6 million in reduced demand for government-funded services.

  • For every $1 spent by the state and other social entities at GRCC, $12.40 is added in state revenue and social savings in forms such as lower crime and unemployment. The Michigan economic base will grow by $2.6 billion over the course of the students’ working lives due to their increased earnings and productivity.

The study also found those with an associate’s degree from GRCC earn $10,200 more annually than those in Michigan with a high school diploma or equal education.

This is the first economic impact report GRCC has done in several years. Freiburger said the previous report was done using different methodology, so it’s harder to make comparisons.

She said she is pleased with the results, and she believes it reinforces GRCC has a “strong and long-standing presence” in the community.

“We are a huge driver of West Michigan’s economy and really support the financial future … of this region,” Freiburger said.

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