It’s no surprise when a large university reports a significant economic impact from its services. But because it’s easy to overlook the topic, the numbers from a recent study of the University of Southern Mississippi bear repeating.
A study by USM’s economic development and entrepreneurship center, with the results verified by an independent economics firm, found that the university’s economic impact is now $663 million per year. That’s a 10% increase from the last study five years ago.
The new study examined USM’s activity from 2017 to 2019. It reported that the university generated $34 million per year in tax revenue, while the annual output of student and employee spending was $565 million.
A USM press release included plenty of positive information about the school: It creates and supports 7,437 jobs in the state. And the athletics program had a $41 million impact, up from $31 million in the last study.
But two other items deserve particular attention.
USM’s Gulf Coast operations are growing rapidly. In the past five years the university has opened three buildings on the Coast, representing an investment of $36 million. Two more buildings and a research vessel are scheduled to be completed in the near future.
Also, a lot of USM’s students are sticking around. The report estimated that 60% of the university’s graduates stay in Mississippi. For a state whose census numbers are pointing to a problem keeping young, educated residents here instead of in Houston, Dallas and Atlanta, this is a positive sign.
The USM report naturally does not include similar research from other universities in Mississippi. But it’s a good bet they’re reporting success stories too, especially Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Jackson State, all of which are of a similar size to USM. It’s a good reminder that the state’s substantial investments in education at all levels pay off in many ways.
— Jack Ryan, Enterprise-Journal