Positive force of independent colleges felt across the state

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette College presidents from the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of PA met at Lycoming College's Mary Welch Honors Hall for their annual board meeting Friday. College president Dr. Kent C. Trachte, right, gives some of the fine points of Lycoming.

Independent colleges and universities, including Lycoming College, Bucknell and Susquehanna universities, collectively contributed $24 billion to the state’s economy last year.

That’s according to Tom P. Foley, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania (AICUP), who visited the editorial board of the Sun-Gazette on Friday morning along with Dr. Kent Trachte, president of Lycoming College.

Foley was in town for the association’s annual conference, held this year at Lycoming College. Also in town for the conference were 21 presidents of member colleges. Trachte is chairman of the association for 2019-20.

More than 90 higher education entities are part of the association.

The economic impact report was researched and developed by Parker Philips, a third-party consulting firm specializing in economic impact analysis. The impact is the result of operational spending, capital spending, payroll and benefits to employees, student spending and visitor spending.

While statewide the economic impact was placed at $24 billion, $843.8 million of it was generated in this region by Lycoming, Bucknell and Susquehanna.

Those three schools supported and sustained 5,798 jobs and generated $37.1 million in state and local tax revenue, according to the report.

“The economic impact of AICUP schools is extraordinary,” Trachte said, noting that a further analysis on just Lycoming College will be available in a few weeks. “With an impact of $24 billion, the positive force generated on our campuses can be felt across every corner of the state.”

The study indicated nonprofit colleges and universities supported almost 200,000 jobs across the state last year.

“The AICUP schools in Pennsylvania provide a significant competitive advantage over other states,” Foley said, noting how nonprofit schools graduate 75,000 students a year, educate more than half of all college students in the state and award diplomas to more than 50 percent of the minority students seeking a four-year degree in the state.

Foley and Trachte, however, said there is a misunderstanding that private colleges take students from families of wealth, but that is not accurate.

Research shows 43 percent of all low-income students at those schools are students seeking four-year degrees who received assistance using Pell grants from the U.S. Department of Education for students meeting income eligibility guidelines.

The average net tuition of $13,000 for undergraduate students receiving financial aid has resulted in lower student loan debt in four of the last five years than in publicly funded institutions, according to the report.

Nearly half of all students are majoring in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Nearly 70 percent of students from those schools also choose a career-directed major, such as teaching, the research stated.

One out of every 32 jobs in the state is created, supported and sustained by nonprofit and private colleges and universities. That equates to 195,525 jobs.

The report also talks about charitable giving and impacting communities. It cites Lycoming College’s Gateway building under the “Impacting Communities” section.

The gateway project involves the revitalization of the city’s East End and Old City neighborhoods.

Old City is a reference to the first part of the city that was settled, with the first inn, prison and courthouse virtually on the college’s new front door.

The college has worked in recent years with the city and Lycoming County to secure more than $25 million in funding for improvements to the public streets, storm water and sanitary sewers, lighting and sidewalks in that area and is preparing the area for potential development, such as a mixture of commercial and private investment, Trachte said.


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