Study shows college’s role in economy

Published 8:40 pm Thursday, February 19, 2015

A first-ever statewide analysis of higher education’s contribution to the state’s economy was released this week, and a local study documents the vital role BCCC plays in the local region, adding about $99.5 million to the economy each year.

The study, Demonstrating the Economic Impact of Beaufort County Community College, documents the vital role the college plays in the local region and the state’s 58 community colleges play in North Carolina, according to a BCCC press release. The statewide study, commissioned by the N.C. Community College System, the University of North Carolina and the 36 campuses of North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities, as well as a local study, commissioned by BCCC, was conducted by Economic Modeling Specialists International of Moscow, Idaho, the release said.

According to the release, the college’s contribution to the annual economy is equivalent to about 6.2 percent of the total gross regional product of its service area. In total, statewide institutions created $63.5 billion in added economic value during the 2012-2013 fiscal year, which is the same year used for the study. The study also finds that while taxpayers invested $4.3 billion statewide to support high education in 2012-2013, the return on investment totaled $17 billion.

According to Jay Sullivan, vice president of Research and Institutional Effectiveness, the companion local study analyzes data from the same year as the statewide study, including payroll and operations spending of BCCC, along with the spending of its alumni and students. All of these are areas of primary focus in the study, which also evaluates the return on investment to students, society and the region’s taxpayers, according to the release. BCCC, a major employer in the area, pays its employees, who go out in the community and spend money on goods and services. The college also is responsible for purchasing goods to support its operations, most of which are purchased in Beaufort County or the college’s service area, Sullivan said.

Sullivan said two other primary areas of focus reflected in the study are through either current or former students. Current students receive federal financial aid, which is used for tuition, books and locally purchased goods and services. Money spent by students on books and tuition at the college are funneled back into the local economy through the college’s payroll for its employees or through the college’s purchase of goods and services. Alumni contributed in a number of different ways: they are employed in the local economy by businesses; they support local industries and businesses as employees; they also contribute tax dollars back into the economy through state, federal and local taxes, Sullivan said.

According to the release, BCCC spent $11.8 million on payroll and benefits for 494 full-time and part-time employees and spent another $8.8 million on goods and services to carry out its day-to-day operations in the year of the study. As a result, more spending is created across other businesses throughout the regional economy and facilitates the creation of jobs, commonly referred to as the multiplier effect, Sullivan said.

Barbara Tansey, BCCC president, said the study reflects the college’s role in the local economy and expressed concern about budget cuts on the state and local levels, which could affect the college’s role in contributing to the local economy.

“This study shows that beyond the educational opportunities it gives students, it is also a driver of the region’s economy and its economic development,” Tansey said. “As our state and local officials begin to prepare their budgets for the coming fiscal year, BCCC is concerned that additional cuts to the community college system could reduce our ability to not only improve the lives of our students but also benefit the economy of our service area. BCCC is essential to the economy of our region today and for the future as this study proves. BCCC must continue to have state funding that allows us to open economic opportunities for students and to help move our region towards a brighter future,” she said.

Economic data for the report on the economic benefits of BCCC in the region were gathered from Beaufort, Hyde and Tyrrell counties, the release said. Washington County was included in the economic analysis of Martin County Community College, which shares service to that county with BCCC.

Sullivan said the study is valuable in regard to documenting and observing the college’s economic impact and allows it to take a look at its strengths and weaknesses.

“The goal is like, in any business, it’s important to occasionally step back and say, ‘How are we doing as an organization? What are our strengths, and what can we do to identify areas of improvement?’ Community colleges, as a whole, do really have a critical role to play over the next 10 years in regard to training and economic impact. It was a timely report to be apart of.”

Scott Rawls, president of the N.C. Community College System, issued a document speaking about the study, citing historical data that has kept North Carolina competitive in developing pioneering higher education initiatives.

“The results of today’s first-ever North Carolina higher education economic impact study highlight the impact that North Carolina’s proud pioneering history of investment and support to education beyond high school, and I think, illustrate the vital importance in continued investment in an area that has been an economic differentiator for our state,” Rawls said.

For more information about BCCC’s local economic impact, visit For more information about the economic benefits study, contact Vice President of Research and Institutional Effectiveness Jay Sullivan at 252-940-6203 or The full text of the N.C. Community College report, along with statewide analysis, is available at