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Report: Northeast Ohio Universities Generate Billions In Local Economy

After a report this week found Ohio’s public four-year institutions generated $42 billion in activity in the state’s economy from 2016 to 2017, some Northeast Ohio schools are giving a clearer picture of their piece of the larger pie.

According to the report, the University of Akron generated $2.7 billion during that same period in economic impact for Northeast Ohio, defined as Summit, Cuyahoga, Medina, Portage and Wayne counties.

In a similar study from 2015, Cleveland State University put its total at $680 million for the same region.

The UA estimate comes from an out-of-state researcher, Idaho’s Economic Modeling Specialists International, or Emsi, with funding from the Inter-University Council of Ohio. The group is made up of the presidents of the state’s 14 public research institutions, like Ohio State, Kent State and Wright State Universities.

It was released this week at the Capitol as part of the IUCO’s “Forward Ohio” campaign, meant to promote the value of public higher education in the state, according to the University of Akron’s interim President John Green.

“This kind of study is important in educating the public and those representing the public in government about the value of the investment in higher education,” Green said.

After years of declining government support for higher education, Green said the campaign is an attempt to remind the public what their tax dollars support, but the investment doesn’t come without repayment, Green explained.

“Tax dollars go to support higher education, but the people who graduate earn more money and pay back a lot of their investment in terms of higher tax revenues in the future,” he said. “So it’s nice to be able to substantiate how important and how valuable higher education is.”

As part of the larger economic impact numbers, the report breaks the dollar amount into the number of jobs the schools support in their communities. At UA, that number is 36,732 jobs in the region. Earlier numbers for Cleveland State University put its job number at more than 6,700.

Green explained the economic impact of the two schools vary so greatly because of the type of research being conducted at UA and the spin off businesses that are the result of or supported by that research, specifically in polymer science.

Although Akron is no longer the home of the rubber industry and tire manufacturing, its strides in polymer research and engineering, a material used to create any number of automobile parts, have remained in the city, Green said.

UA also touts its return on investment for students, or the amount of money they’ll earn over their lifetime compared to the cost of receiving a degree. The Emsi report said UA students will earn back nearly five times that cost over their lifetime.

Editor's Note: This story was updated to clarify that CSU provided numbers from an earlier economic impact study, not a derivative of the Emsi study.

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