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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

AASCU Study: State Colleges and Universities Positively Impact Local Communities

SALISBURY, MD---A new study conducted by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) reveals that state colleges and universities create jobs and infuse revenue into local economies.

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State colleges and universities are top 5 (71 percent), 10 (84 percent) and 20 (99 percent) employers in their communities, according to AASCU presidents who were surveyed. Counter to the Department of Labor’s April employment report, which showed a 9 percent increase in the unemployment rate, presidents are optimistic (60 percent) about long-term local market job growth.

Nearly two-thirds of presidents (63 percent) feel that the size of the local economy will grow. The survey also reveals the critical role of state colleges and universities in local K-12 schools, with 96 percent improving the educational infrastructure of the communities they serve.

“Historically, state colleges and universities have enriched our country by serving as ‘stewards of place’ for their communities, not only delivering on the American promise of student access, affordability and educational opportunity but also by honoring a legacy of service, creating community-building opportunities ranging from economic development to school reform,” said Muriel Howard, president of AASCU. “This survey confirms that ours are publicly engaged institutions, that our members are enriching the communities they serve, rooting their importance in the American infrastructure.  This year AASCU celebrates its 50th anniversary of serving as a leading advocate for and partner with state colleges and universities. As we look to the next 50 years, the partnerships between our members and their communities will be even more crucial as both seek to effectively meet 21st century challenges.”

Survey highlights include:

Economic Development – Presidents indicated that their school’s average dollar impact on the community in 2009 was $534 million.

Elevating Education – Institutions of higher learning are committed to making positive contributions to their local community.

  • Most respondents were concerned about the quality of K-12 education and opportunities for youth in their local community Some 98 percent stated that their institution currently sponsors programs or innovations aimed at improving the community they serve. 
  • Some 90 percent of presidents indicated that their school has taken on a role to provide training and educational opportunities for community residents who are not necessarily traditional students.

Cultural Enhancement – Colleges and universities are hubs for intellectual growth and fine arts.

  • Most presidents reported that the role of their institution includes providing the community access to arts and culture.
  • Schools provide cultural events such as lectures (97 percent), exhibitions (96 percent) and galleries (94 percent), as well as access to films (77 percent), museums (64 percent) and online exhibitions (52 percent).

“As a state university president for 15 years and a former member of AASCU’s board of directors, I am not surprised that so many public institutions enrich their communities through academic and professional studies, cultural programming, and economic stimulus and development,” said Salisbury University President Janet Dudley-Eshbach.

“Recently, a community member referred to our campus as the Acropolis of Salisbury, and I think he was referring to more than classical columns on our buildings. I am proud that Salisbury University and other AASCU member institutions across the nation diligently work to strengthen the intellectual, cultural and communal bonds which define an engaged and enlightened society.”

The Business, Economics and Community Outreach Network (BEACON) conservatively estimates SU’s annual economic impact on the City of Salisbury and the region at some $420 million. That does not include an additional $300 million one-time impact from ongoing campus construction.

Meanwhile, SU continues to be one of the state’s top producers of excellent educators: So far this year, five of Maryland’s county Teachers of the Year—more than 20 percent—are SU alumni. The National Association of Professional Development Schools (PDS) recently honored SU’s program with its prestigious Exemplary Achievement Award, one of only five across the country.

Culturally, the University presents more than 200 programs each year, including concerts, live theatre, art exhibits, lectures and films. Most are open to the public at little or no cost. SU’s affiliated organizations—including the Institute for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement, Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture, Salisbury Symphony Orchestra, Delmarva Public Radio and more—provide unique services to the region.

For 50 years, AASCU has championed public higher education by providing advocacy and policy support to its more than 400 member colleges and universities. AASCU surveyed its members as part of its 50th anniversary celebration as a way to highlight the significant role these institutions play in their communities.

The survey was conducted between February 14 and March 11, 2011. All AASCU members were invited to participate. Some 55 percent of 112 respondents represented schools with 5,000 to 15,000 students. For more information about the survey and the association, visit www.aascu.org.



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