Buffalo News: Another Voice: State's private colleges have major economic impact

Gary A. Olson, president of Daemen College

Commentary appears in Buffalo News

While the challenges facing higher education across the country remain in the limelight, private colleges and universities in New York State have endured as leaders in higher education and, together, are one of the strongest major contributors to the state’s economic sustainability and growth. The fact is private institutions are crucial to the state’s long-term economic well-being and vitality. 

A study released by the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities (CICU) clearly confirms that private institutions are a major economic industry in the state and have realized a striking increase in the sector’s overall economic impact. In 2013, private colleges and universities contributed a combined $74.3 billion to the state’s economy. This figure represents a staggering $11 billion increase since 2011. 

As CICU aptly pointed out, private campuses in New York “create jobs and act as ‘anchor’ tenants in communities across the state. These colleges and universities are major employers, purchasers of goods and services, and builders.” 

Collectively, 190,500 individuals are directly employed at private institutions in the state, marking an increase of nearly 10,000 jobs from 2011 to 2013. Also, the study, which was conducted by the Center for Governmental Research, showed that students and visitors in private higher education generated $4.5 billion in economic activity. 

In Western New York, the study revealed that my institution, Daemen College, had an economic impact of more than $131.8 million, a $17 million increase. What’s more, the college’s economic boost translates into more than $3.47 million in tax revenue and a $26.2 million economic impact from students and visitors. 

Here at Daemen, the college’s economic reach connects to a bigger picture. As an educational institution, the college has had a long-standing commitment to its students and to the Buffalo Niagara region. 

In the past year alone, we’ve expanded academic offerings to now include a master of public health and a master’s degree in social work. We’ve opened the doors to a new nearly $2 million state-of-the-art visual effects facility, a major milestone in a Buffalo Billion project. 

By improving Daemen and investing in our communities, these efforts underpin the college’s important role among the group of private institutions in the state that are driving economic growth through job creation and retention, tax revenues and other activities. 

Daemen and other private colleges and universities are a powerful economic engine in the state. 

As a whole, this group of valued institutions will remain strong and continue to foster economic growth, contribute to our workforce and create new opportunities for our students and our communities.