“One of (Hodge’s) crazy ideas was to create a huge research center in the middle of a pine forest between three great universities, and that’s where we are today,” said Ralls, president of the North Carolina Community College System.
Ralls, among other state higher education leaders, gathered in Research Triangle Park on Wednesday to discuss a new economic report detailing the impact of colleges and universities in North Carolina.
Higher education added $63.5 billion in income to North Carolina’s economy in 2012-13, according to the report from Idaho-based firm Economic Modeling Specialists International. It’s being touted as the first effort to measure the statewide impact of the UNC system and North Carolina’s community and private colleges.
Of that $63.5 billion added annually, $27.9 billion came from UNC-system operations.
Since Republicans took over the N.C. General Assembly in 2010 at the tail end of the recession, politicians have placed an increased emphasis on public universities’ return on investment and ability to get students jobs. State support for the UNC system has dropped more than $1 billion since 2007 — and schools have felt pressure to prove economic value to avoid further cuts.
The new study asserted that taxpayers of North Carolina receive a significant return on investment year after year. From 2012 to 2013, state taxpayers invested $4.3 billion in higher education, generating a return of almost $17 billion.