Institutions of higher learning have an impact that extends beyond the classroom and into the communities they serve, according to a recent study by the Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas. As an example, the study’s findings show that Southwestern Assemblies of God University’s economic impact totals more than $59 million here in Ellis County.
Southwestern’s Vice President for Advancement Rick Bowles said the university plays an essential role in serving as an economic driver.
“[With the] campus here in Waxahachie, there is an opportunity for students to be a part of the community,” Bowles said. “The students work. You go to coffee shops, restaurants, and local events and you will see them working.
“To build a community within a larger community is very important to us,” he said. “We are really going to strive harder to bring more students onto the campus, so they feel like they are a part of a family. That is one of the areas that we have set forth to grow in and I think that it will impact Waxahachie even more.”
Of the $59 million generated by SAGU, more than $40 million was in direct spending, with more than $14 million in university employee spending, $15 million-plus in student spending, $352,131 in visitor spending, more than $11 million in university purchases and with capital expenditures totaling $225,248.
“I think the economic impact is powerful for anyone to look at when you see the number of $40 million and $14 million [of that] coming from the employees,” Bowles said. “I think that the surprise is the $15 million that comes from student spending.
“We are excited … from a business standpoint also that we are a part of this community,” he said. “We are not just an island on Sycamore Street. We are sending out students throughout our community and throughout Ellis County.”
Bowles said the economic impact students have on the community continues after they graduate because many choose to build a life in Ellis County.
“A lot of times, when people hear about Southwestern, they think that we are just preparing missionaries, youth pastors and pastors,” Bowles said. “That is a very important foundation of who we are but, when you look at all the teachers, it is hard to walk into an Ellis County school and not find a SAGU education graduate in the classroom.”
Bowles also noted SAGU’s strong programs in criminal justice, social work and counseling, sociology and the health sciences and how the university feels that if a student has that strong spiritual foundation, it helps to make an even more significant impact in his or her career field.
Southwestern has expanded its facilities over the past few years with the completion of such projects as the Hagee Communication Center. Bowles’ current goal is to strengthen the university’s student foundation.
“Right now, our focus is developing our foundation,” he said. “We want to see some growth in the areas of scholarships and we are having conversations with some of our important donors. We are having conversations on campus to see what that would look like to grow our endowment and foundation so that we can provide more scholarships for incoming students and for students who are already involved in the university.”
More than $19 million of Southwestern’s $59 million economic impact was from induced spending, according to the ICUT study. Induced spending consists of the additional employment and expenditures by local businesses that result from an institution’s direct spending. Southwestern’s economic impact has led to the creation of 431 jobs.
The study indicates how SAGU has more than just an educational impact on the community where it’s been a part of for more than 90 years, Bowles said, adding that the economic impact figures allow people “to see us in a way that maybe they have not seen us before.”
The Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas represents 42 institutions. For more than 50 years the ICUT has educated policymakers on the importance and value of the independent sector of higher education.
The study found that ICUT members had a total economic impact of $10.46 billion across the state in 2016, with direct spending totaling $5.67 billion and indirect spending totaling $4.79 billion.
A separate study by Economic Modeling Specialists International on behalf of the Texas Association of Community Colleges, Texas Council of Public Universities and Chancellors and Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas found the net effect of colleges and university operations added $15.7 billion to the state’s economy in 2012. That study showed the higher education sector employed 213, 627 full-time and part-time employees in fiscal year 2013 with a combined pay roll of $11.4 billion. Those institutions spent $9.6 billion to support operations.