Speakers Testify on CUNY’s Economic Impact at City Council Hearings November 18

Testimony on the economic impact of the City University at the November 18 New York City Council hearings revealed that CUNY is a major regional economic engine which contributes nearly $13.7 billion annually to the state economy-a figure ten times the University’s budget.

A panel of speakers including University educators, a key labor leader, government representatives and the president of a leading trade association addressed CUNY’s economic impact before the City Council’s Committee on Higher Education, chaired by Councilwoman Helen Marshall. CUNY Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Dr. Louise Mirrer cited several reports and studies outlining areas where the University’s economic impact substantially benefited both city and state economies.

  • The City University’s total economic impact on New York’s economy and tax base is approximately $13.7 billion annually-more than 10 times CUNY’s annualbudget– based on the standard U.S. Department of Commerce method for calculating the total economic effect of education expenditures.
  • CUNY campuses spend $122 million annually for supplies, equipment and services, nearly all of which is spent with New York based vendors.
  • Approximately $300 million of expenditures for construction and facilities renovation were infused into the New York economy in the past year.
  • In addition to tuition, CUNY students, 98% of whom live in the city while attending college, spend more than $800 million each year while in college-including $81 million on books alone, virtually all of which is spent in New York City retail stores.
  • Ten years after graduation, 80% of CUNY alumni continue to live, work, pay taxes and spend in New York.

“CUNY has for decades graduated leaders in professions and industries for which the New York metropolitan area is famed, ” Interim Chancellor Christoph M. Kimmich noted. “But the heart of the University’s contribution to our local economies is, as it has been for over 150 years, the provision of low-cost, high quality education to every citizen who seeks it out. The local return on this investment is high and for every student turned away from CUNY because of inadequate resources, we put at risk a stream of dollars spent in New York, a career-long stream of taxes paid by our graduates, and another productive citizen and neighbor.”

Dr. Mirrer pointed out that for many of the City University’s 200,000 degree credit students (and 150,000 adult and continuing education students) CUNY represents an unparalleled path to upward mobility. Mirrer quoted a 1996 Standard & Poor’s Executive College Survey that said: “The City University, since 1980, has led all other colleges and universities in bestowing undergraduate degrees on alumni who are now top executives.”

“Most of these students are the first members of their families to attend college,” Dr. Mirrer said of a student population whose families earn less than $25,000 in annual income. “Their success is not due to the corporate connections of their family’s inherited wealth, but solely on their determination to succeed and the opportunity that the University has given them to gain the education, skills and credentials required to rise to top executive positions.”

These CUNY successes are even more dramatic, Dr. Mirrer said, because they have allowed unprecedented numbers of foreign-born students and U.S.-born minority students to achieve their personal ambitions while becoming upwardly mobile economically.

“Last year alone,” Dr. Mirrer said, “some 69% of CUNY’s entering freshmen were born outside the U.S. mainland, or had one or both parents born outside the U.S. mainland.”

In addition to CUNY’s overall economic impact, Dr. Mirrer described high-end post-graduate, research and scientific initiatives as often ignored, but vitally important resources and talent that the University contributes to the local economy.

CUNY baccalaureate alumni earned 1.5 times as manydoctoral degrees between 1982 and 1993 as Columbia University, New York University and the University of Chicago combined.

More than a third of the Graduate School and University Center’s doctoral programs ranked in the nation’s top 20.

Since 1995 CUNY scientists have:

  • Generated 57 grants worth $4.5 million with private sector industrial firms.
  • Generated $39 million in federal and state grants and contracts in support of their research.
  • Obtained federal funding for 23 joint proposals with local industry.
  • Conducted consulting and outreach for 130 New York City companies.
  • Received 10 patents, with several others pending.