Study: Penn State Berks contributes $97.5 million to PA economy

More than 1,356 Pennsylvania jobs can be attributed to Penn State Berks, study finds
Penn State Berks' Gaige Technology and Business Innovation Building
Credit: Penn State

WYOMISSING, Pa. — Penn State Berks contributed $97.5 million to the Pennsylvania economy in fiscal year 2017, and supported, directly and indirectly, 1,356 Pennsylvania jobs. A new study released Feb. 26 by Penn State focused on measuring the University’s impact in communities across the Commonwealth.

Overall, the study found that Penn State is an economic powerhouse, contributing more than $11.6 billion to the state’s economy. More than 102,000 Pennsylvania jobs can be attributed to Penn State on the whole, the study found; and for every $1 in state appropriations received by Penn State, the University returns $1.24 in tax payments to the Commonwealth.

Penn State Berks Chancellor R. Keith Hillkirk stated that Penn State Berks has a long history of community engagement, which has grown over the last six decades as the campus has evolved into a four-year college offering 21 baccalaureate degrees.

“We fully embrace the land-grant mission of the University and we are committed to providing an affordable, accessible education to a diverse student body; to making meaningful contributions through research; and to serving our community. Penn State Berks is one community impacting many.” 

Hillkirk added that through strategic initiatives such as the Berks LaunchBox, an innovation hub located in the City of Reading, and the Flemming Creativity Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Center on campus, the college is focusing on entrepreneurship and innovation. In partnership with Penn State Health St. Joseph, Penn State Berks is also working to increase access to fresh fruit and vegetables in the community through the Veggie Rx Program.

“By any measure, Penn State is a powerful economic engine for Pennsylvania, contributing billions of dollars each year to the economy in communities across the Commonwealth, educating more than 98,000 students annually, and creating many thousands of jobs,” said Penn State President Eric J. Barron. “This study highlights the widespread nature of Penn State’s economic contributions. Our University, with 24 locations across the Commonwealth, an academic medical center and a growing health system, is an engine that drives the economy and improves lives in all 67 Pennsylvania counties.”

The study employed a best-practice model, endorsed by the Association of Public Land-Grant Universities (APLU) and the American Association of Universities (AAU), to measure Penn State’s annual contribution to Pennsylvania’s economy. The study focused on quantifying the direct and extended impact of the University’s spending on goods and services in Pennsylvania, employee pay and benefits, spending on renovations and new facilities, student spending, and operations expenditures for Penn State Health. It also found that Penn State’s 24-campus locations spread the University’s economic contributions into communities in all corners of Pennsylvania, in a way that is unmatched by any other university in the Commonwealth.

Other measures of Penn State’s contributions
The study provides an important view of Penn State’s contributions by certain measures. Hillkirk also highlighted that there are many other ways in which Penn State Berks generates economic activity in the Greater Berks County area and benefits Pennsylvania students, families and residents.

Examples of these secondary benefits to Pennsylvania are numerous.

Beyond the 97.5 million in total economic contributions measured by the study, additional, secondary impacts of Penn State Berks’ presence in the region not measured include business revenue and personal income generated by visitors to campus sporting and cultural events, and other attractions annually; donations of money and time by Penn State Berks students, faculty, staff and alumni to important regional causes, such as Caron Foundation, the Olivet Boys & Girls Club and the United Way of Berks County and; leading new business startups and driving student career success and job creation at the Berks LaunchBox, as part of Invent Penn State; and the many other ways Penn State through its teaching, research and service helps Pennsylvania and its citizens to compete and succeed on a global stage.

Impacting communities
In addition to overarching contributions, the study highlights the significant local influence of Penn State’s campuses on the state’s economy and citizenry. Outside of University Park and Penn State Health, the study found that Penn State operations and student spending at campus locations across the Commonwealth combined for more than $2 billion in total economic contributions, with most of those impacts coming in the county in which each campus is situated.

More than 95 percent of Pennsylvania residents live within 30 miles of a Penn State campus, and 75 percent live within 15 miles, putting a world-class Penn State degree within driving distance for most Pennsylvanians. The University’s 19 undergraduate Commonwealth Campuses alone play a critical role for Pennsylvanians statewide, serving more than 30,000 students and employing more than 8,000 full- and part-time faculty and staff members.

“Along with fulfilling our land-grant mission to provide an accessible and affordable education to Pennsylvania citizens, the campuses have a powerful economic impact throughout the Commonwealth, tie Penn State philanthropy and volunteerism to local communities, and support our strategic efforts and moral imperative to foster diversity and inclusion,” Barron said in recent remarks to the Penn State Board of Trustees. “Our campuses help Penn State to serve the families of Pennsylvania, enabling students to access a world-class education and to live at home, work and go to school in their own local communities.”