Lycoming College as an economic driver and community anchor

Lycoming College and the other 90 independent non-profit colleges and universities in this state are an incredible asset for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The positive impact of Lycoming and the other independent institutions of higher education takes many forms. The fact that they are centers of learning and inquiry and provide educations that benefit both individuals and contribute to the public good is often stated and well known. Less familiar are the ways that independent non-profit colleges function as drivers of state and local economies and anchors of communities spread throughout the state. The breadth and magnitude of the economic benefit of Pennsylvania’s independent non-profit college sector differentiates it from most other states.

The Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania (AICUP) recently commissioned a third-party study that found that its 90-plus member schools generated a $24 billion impact on the state’s economy and supported almost 200,000 jobs across Pennsylvania in 2018. The study utilized the IMPLAN methodology, a best practice model used in numerous higher education economic impact studies in Pennsylvania and nationwide.

While the dollar value of the statewide impact is impressive, the economic benefit of the sector becomes even more visible when one focuses on the cities and regions that serve as homes to the institutions. For example, the study estimated that in 2018, the economic impact of Lycoming College was $85.9 million and 711 jobs. This estimate includes both direct and indirect impacts, including spending on operations, wages and benefits, and capital projects; the estimated increase in demand for goods and services in sectors that supply or support the College; and the effect of student and visitor spending and the induced effect of increased household income. The estimate that Lycoming supports and sustains 711 jobs includes direct employment by the college as well as indirect and induced jobs created by supply and equipment vendors, contractors, and jobs created in the community at hotels, restaurants, and retail stores in support of the institution’s faculty, staff, students, and visitors.

It is also important to recognize that many AICUP schools, including Lycoming College, are community anchors. For 208 years, even as its industrial and manufacturing base has experienced cycles of growth and decline, Lycoming College has been a stable economic presence in the economy for the city of Williamsport, Lycoming County, and north central Pennsylvania. The college has also supported the culture and quality of life in the community.

It is impossible to capture all the myriad ways that Lycoming College makes a difference in the quality of life in north central Pennsylvania, but a few examples are illustrative:

• The collaboration with the city, the county, state Department of Transportation and private developers to revitalize Old City — the east end of Williamsport;

• The Lycoming College Art Gallery, which opened in 2015 in downtown Williamsport, and hosts multiple artists and exhibitions throughout the year;

• The partnership with the Community Arts Center and the Pennsylvania College of Technology that supports one of the community’s best cultural assets and provides the community with the opportunity to experience Lycoming College choir and band concerts;

• The Clean Water Institute, which contributes to the preservation of regional water quality and storm water management and offers educational programming;

• The Williamsport Internship Summer Experience (WISE) program, which provides interns to more than 20 local employers each summer; many of the interns convert these experiences into full-time employment and become part of the local work force;

• Serving as host to the Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week, which is a statewide business camp for high school youth that brings more than 2,000 Pennsylvania youth to campus and the city;

• Hosting more than 100 events annually involving speakers, musicians, business leaders, scientists, and politicians that are open to the public;

• The openLYCOMING community seminar courses offered throughout the year to the community for lifelong learning;

• Offering students from local high schools the opportunity to take college courses;

• The donation of more than 35,000 pounds of food annually to the American Rescue Workers shelters;

• Sports camps and summer camps for local youth.

The leadership of Lycoming College is deeply committed to remaining a contributor to the local economy, culture, quality of life in Williamsport and the surrounding region.

Kent C. Trachte, Ph.D., is the 15th president of Lycoming College.