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A new study shows that Harrisburg University of Science and Technology had a total statewide economic impact of more than $24 million in 2014. Additionally, the study notes that independent colleges and universities in Pennsylvania’s Capital Area produced 5,520 jobs and had a total economic impact of $1.1 billion in 2014.

“As the numbers show, the 12 independent colleges and universities in the Capital Area  play an important role in the regional economy, creating jobs, partnerships and business opportunities for the region,” said Don Francis, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania, which conducted the study.

AICUP surveyed its member colleges and universities and examined U.S. Department of Education data and other sources to arrive at an impact for Pennsylvania’s Capital Area of $1.1 billion in economic benefit provided by the region’s 12 independent colleges and universities. Statewide independent colleges and universities in more than 60 communities contribute $17.97 billion to Pennsylvania’s economy.

The study examined Harrisburg University’s employment, income taxes paid to state and local governments, student expenditures, institutional expenditures, and visitor expenditures. Harrisburg University’s total statewide economic impact in 2014 was $24,350,862.

Other Capital Area independent colleges and universities include Dickinson College, Elizabethtown College, Franklin & Marshall College, Gettysburg College,  Lancaster Bible College, Lebanon Valley College, Messiah College, Pennsylvania College of Art & Design, Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences, Wilson College and York College of Pennsylvania.

Despite economic instability in the five years since AICUP last measured the economic impact of independent colleges and universities, the sector remains the fourth ranked private sector payroll in Pennsylvania. Only corporate management offices, hospitals and physician offices exceed independent colleges and universities in payroll.

“As our enrollment has grown to nearly 290,000 students—including large numbers of out-of-state and international students—we have weathered the recession better than most private industries and continue to offer good, family-sustaining jobs with benefits,” Francis said.

Among the findings:

  • Independent colleges and universities in the Capital Area directly purchased goods and services from the state’s businesses totaling $451 million in 2014. Statewide the sector spends $6.8 billion annually on goods and services. The overall statewide economic impact of this spending is $9.6 billion.
  • Students attending independent colleges and universities in the Capital Area directly spend $50 million annually, benefiting book publishers, general merchandise stores, grocery and convenience stores, real estate rentals, amusement and recreation establishments, restaurants, clothing stores, telecommunications and utilities, furniture and home furnishing stores, wholesale trade industries and other businesses. Across the state, independent sector students spend $1 billion annually or $2.7 million a day at local Pennsylvania businesses. The total economic impact of this spending is $1.7 billion.
  • Independent colleges and universities in Pennsylvania’s Capital Area provide 5,520 jobs and pay $313 million in wages. Statewide independent colleges and universities pump $5.67 billion in salary and wage dollars into Pennsylvania’s economy by employing 78,764 residents, besting the annual payrolls of law firms, engineering service firms, commercial banks, temporary help businesses, pharmacy/drug wholesalers and full-service restaurants.
  • Employees of Pennsylvania’s independent higher education sector pay $167 million annually in state income taxes and $136 million in taxes to local governments yearly.
  • Pennsylvania’s independent colleges and universities spend over $500 million annually on construction and renovation projects.
  • In recent years, independent colleges and universities have built theaters, bookstores, mixed student housing, retail shopping and administrative offices to revitalize depressed downtown districts.

“Independent higher education continues to grow in importance as an industry, as an employer, and as an ignitor of prosperity in towns throughout Pennsylvania,” Francis said. “The independent higher education sector also continues to have enormous economic impact by developing human capital for the Commonwealth’s workforce.”

The independent higher education sector is the largest of Pennsylvania’s four sectors of higher education. Nearly 290,000 students attend independent colleges and universities in the state, accounting for 42 percent of all enrollments and 49 percent of degrees awarded in the Commonwealth.

A brochure containing the major findings in the report is on AICUP’s website (

The Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania (AICUP), the only statewide organization that serves exclusively the interests of private higher education within the Commonwealth, exists to complement and support the work of campus leaders.  With a membership of 88 private colleges and universities within Pennsylvania, the Association provides a variety of services and programs tailored specifically to the needs and situation of independent higher education.  A list of AICUP’s member colleges and universities is included on its website at