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Wilson College Generates $31 Million a Year for Economy

Posted: June 24, 2010

6/24/2010 Colleges and universities have a huge impact on the economic health of their surroundings, and Wilson College is no exception, contributing $31 million a year to the Pennsylvania economy, according to a study released recently by the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania (AICUP).
DATE: June 24, 2010
CONTACT: Cathy Mentzer, Manager of Media Relations
Phone: 717-264-4141, Ext. 3178

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. – Colleges and universities have a huge impact on the economic health of their surroundings, and Wilson College is no exception, contributing $31 million a year to the Pennsylvania economy, according to a study released recently by the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania (AICUP).

Most of that spending benefits the local economy in the form of everything from employee salaries and earned income taxes paid to their home municipalities, to fees paid by the college to area vendors and money spent by Wilson students and their families.

“Wilson is proud to serve as an important economic engine in our region,” said Dr. Lorna Edmundson, Wilson College president. “As a small, independent educational institution, we must also be entrepreneurial, sharing much in common with the many small businesses that help south-central Pennsylvania flourish.”

The study, titled Making an Impact: The Economic Impact of Independent Higher Education on Pennsylvania, places Wilson's direct economic impact at nearly $22 million annually, including:

Institutional expenditures $8,988,512.00
Student expenditures (excluding tuition and room and board) $1,421,924.00
Visitor and tourist spending $ 78,822.00
Staff and faculty spending $8,044,992.00
Capital expenditures $3,440,528.00

Not included in the direct economic impact are income taxes on salaries paid to Wilson's 225 full- and part-time employees. Those positions, combined with an estimated 148 jobs that are directly attributable to Wilson-related economic activity, net the Commonwealth an estimated $221,002 a year in payroll taxes and generate approximately $102,965 for the municipalities where employees reside, the study says.

“To have the higher education sector in a community is a tremendous benefit,” said Mike Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corp. “Most communities would want a Wilson College because of all the economic, cultural and social benefits it brings.”

Wilson contributes to the Chambersburg area, and Franklin County as a whole, in a number of ways, including serving as a significant employment center, generating commerce for a wide variety of area businesses, broadening the area’s cultural and educational offerings, and contributing to workforce development, according to Ross. He said it also brings other positive effects.

“Having a college within the downtown of Chambersburg increases the quality of life. You can see the effect of that on Philadelphia Avenue and especially the surrounding area on the north side of Wilson College,” Ross said. “It’s enhanced the real estate values of all the properties surrounding it. Whenever anybody’s selling their house in that part of the community, they advertise that it’s near Wilson College.”

In addition to the direct impact of nearly $22 million a year, Wilson's indirect and induced economic impact are estimated at an additional $9,035,840 per year in AICUP’s report. The indirect and induced impact is calculated using a multiplier developed through the IMPLAN economic impact software, using an input-output model for Pennsylvania, according to AICUP Vice President for Research Ron Uroda.

"The direct impact measures the money that comes out of the institution and is spent on goods and services, along with what faculty and students spend," Uroda said. "The indirect impact is money that those initial vendors use to purchase their own goods and supplies. The induced impact is money that goes to employees of all those businesses, whose employees turn around and spend in their own communities."

AICUP compiles the economic impact report every five years. The organization used a different method to generate numbers than it has in the past, making the data created for the same report in 2005 incomparable, according to Uroda. “We think this is a better method,” he said.

The AICUP study assessed Wilson's economic impact, along with that of 93 other independent colleges and universities. The study estimates that the educational institutions have an estimated total economic impact on Pennsylvania of $16.1 billion annually.

Independent colleges and universities are now the fourth-largest private sector employer in the state – up from seventh in 1999 - behind only management firms, hospitals and physician offices in payroll. They employ more than 79,000 people directly in on-campus jobs, paying nearly $4.6 billion a year in wages.

In the Capital Area region, of which Wilson College is part, independent colleges and universities employ 6,119 people and pay out $266 million in wages, according to AICUP.

Some other interesting facts in the AICUP report include:

In 2009, Pennsylvania’s independent colleges and universities purchased goods and services in the Commonwealth totaling $5.4 billion.
In addition to paying tuition fees and room and board, the more than 284,000 students attending independent higher education institutions in the state spend almost $1 billion every year on such things as personal items, school supplies, food, entertainment and furniture.
Employees of Pennsylvania’s independent higher education sector pay more than $130 million yearly in state income taxes and more than $100 million in taxes to local governments.
In the past several years, private colleges and universities have spent more than $500 million a year on construction and renovation projects – such as Wilson’s $25 million Harry R. Brooks Complex for Science, Mathematics and Technology – generating 3,389 Pennsylvania construction jobs.

“While I continue to believe that the greatest economic impact of our private colleges and universities is the human capital they develop for the Pennsylvania workforce, private higher education continues to grow in importance as an industry, as an employer, and as an engine of prosperity in towns throughout the Commonwealth,” said Don Francis, AICUP president.

More information about the AICUP study can be found on the organization’s website:


Founded in 1869, Wilson College is a liberal arts college dedicated to the education of women. Affiliated with the Presbyterian Church and located in Chambersburg, Pa. Wilson offers bachelor’s degrees in 30 areas and a master’s degree in education. The college’s 2009-10 enrollment in both the College for Women and the Adult Degree Programs is 838 and includes students from 20 states and 18 foreign countries. Wilson is committed to environmental sustainability and to preparing leaders who will serve their communities and professions effectively.

Last Updated: June 30, 2011