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Study: University of South Carolina’s impact tops $5.5 billion

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A new study released today shows the annual statewide economic impact of the University of South Carolina system now totals $5.5 billion, supports 1 in 35 jobs statewide and generates nearly $220 million in tax revenue.

The study, done by USC’s Darla Moore School of Business, is an update of an economic analysis conducted in 2011.

“The economic benefits of higher education are far-reaching for both individual citizens and the state as a whole,” writes Joseph Von Nessen, the study’s author and a Moore School economist. “The lives of individual alumni are improved through earning higher wages and a lifetime of better job opportunities, while the community at large also benefits through economic spillover effects and a net increase in tax revenue for the state of South Carolina.”

Current enrollment in the USC system exceeds 50,000 undergraduate and graduate students, by far the largest higher-education entity in South Carolina. Yearly wages for college graduates are on average more than $18,000 higher than those with a high school degree, and the percentage of the population with a college degree “is the best predictor of a state’s national ranking in personal per capita income levels,” the study notes.

Among the study’s key findings:

  • USC has an annual systemwide impact of $5.5 billion, including goods and services associated with increases in alumni wages and business activity.
  • A total of 60,250 jobs are supported by the system, or 1 in every 35 statewide.
  • Tax revenue returned to the state totals $219.5 million annually.
  • USC Athletics accounts for a $225 million annual impact and also supports 2,787 jobs.
  • The USC School of Medicine in Columbia, which is in partnership with the new Palmetto Health-USC Medical Group, has a net impact of $81.4 million and supports 484 jobs.
  • USC’s Office of Economic Engagement, launched in 2013, has an impact of more than $40 million, obtaining $21 million in grant funding and more than 130 patents since its founding.
  • Nearly $50 million is returned to local communities from visitors to USC campuses, including families of nonresident students.

While the largest economic impact is from USC’s flagship campus in Columbia ($4.16 billion), USC’s eight-campus system delivers millions in economic benefits across the state:

USC in Columbia ($4.16 billion)

USC Upstate ($506 million)

USC Aiken ($281 million)

USC Beaufort ($84 million)

USC Lancaster ($75 million)

USC Salkehatchie ($47 million)

USC Sumter ($40 million)

USC Union ($26 million)

“This study once again demonstrates that higher education is unquestionably a worthy investment,” USC President Harris Pastides said. “Supporting higher education is not part of a zero-sum game — it benefits not only those earning their degrees, but also increases prosperity for the entire state and every citizen.”

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