Union College has about a quarter-billion-dollar economic impact on the Capital Region, according to a report by the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities.
The college employs 870 people and its payroll is $48 million, which makes it among the region’s largest employers and it is also a major purchaser of goods and services and construction and service contracts.
The economic analysis was done by the Center for Governmental Research at the request of CICU, which is an advocacy group for more than 100 independent colleges and universities in New York state.
It found that direct spending by Union in 2011 was $114.3 million; construction spending was $9.5 million; labor compensation was $106.5 million; and there was $19.6 million in spending by the 2,200 students and visitors to the college. Adding in tax revenue and factoring in spin-off economic benefits, the report concluded that the college had a $274 million effect on the economy.
Union’s economic impact of $274 million is part of the $63.2 billion the 100-plus independent colleges and universities in New York state contributed to the state’s economy in 2011, according to CGR’s analysis.
In the Capital Region, that impact was $3.7 billion, which includes $2.9 billion in direct spending by colleges and universities; $300.5 million in student and visitor spending; and $516.2 million in impact from academic medical centers. Colleges and universities in the Capital Region employ about 23,000 people.
Spokesman Phil Wajda said college officials were not surprised by the findings and noted that the Capital District Regional Planning Commission did an economic impact study five years ago and came up with similar figures.
“I think it just reaffirms the commitment the college has — not only to the city but the region as a whole. We take that tradition very seriously,” he said.
As a nonprofit, the college pays no property taxes, which has been a source of contention with the city. However, college officials point out that they have partnered with the city on a number of initiatives such as renovating a baseball field in Central Park, installing public surveillance cameras to help deter crime in the surrounding neighborhood and making improvements to crosswalks and sidewalks on the perimeter of the campus.
In addition, nearly 1,200 students spend more than 12,000 hours on community service projects each year, according to a college press release. This includes reading to children at the Kenney Community Center tutored and read to local children, serving as a Big Brother or Big Sister and participating in the state Volunteer Income Tax Assistant Program (VITA), which has obtained more than $2 million in tax refunds for local residents since its launch in 2005.
“As one of the nation’s leading liberal arts colleges, we are proud to call the city of Schenectady and the greater Capital Region home,” said college President Stephen C. Ainlay in a statement. “For more than 200 years, Union has tried to be mindful of its responsibility as a good neighbor and we are always looking at practical and innovative ways to enhance the economic, social and cultural environment of our local community.”