Measuring the University's Impact Reveals a Rainbow of Benefits

By Rawlins, V. Lane | Business Perspectives, September 1996 | Go to article overview
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Measuring the University's Impact Reveals a Rainbow of Benefits


Rawlins, V. Lane, Business Perspectives


There are many ways to look at the impact of the University on the community and people. One of the most important is to consider the increased earning power created by college attendance and graduation. Our very existence is economically justified by the continued positive correlation of education and earnings, a fact which serves as a ray of hope for those seeking personal progress in a world in which economic reality is changing and unpredictable.

We can also look at the University as an enterprise, weighing its revenues and expenditures and comparing it to other public universities and private entities. The faculty and staff participate fully in the economy, and their families are, in general, above average in economic and social measures. Thousands of students are also customers, employees, taxpayers, and general contributors to the economy.

Immeasurable benefits. Other important effects are not so readily measurable. The same faculty that are counted as workers and consumers bring a talented, cosmopolitan flavor to the community. Because they are educated and tend to be outgoing and service-oriented, they are represented on the working committees and boards of our community in numbers far-exceeding their proportion of the population.

Even more indirect is the visibility that certain programs bring to our community. A national survey asking about Memphis would undoubtedly show that the University basketball team is one of the things that people across the nation most frequently associate with Memphis. Historically, it has been our only "big league" team. Our programs also enrich the music, theatre, and dance in the community and provide dozens of speakers on a whole range of topics, from the currently newsworthy to the academically obscure. Events, speakers, conferences, training sessions, and sports at The University of Memphis bring tens of thousands of people to Memphis each year.

An income generator. A critical question in assessing net impact is whether the enterprise under consideration generates income or merely redistributes income. Some would argue, for example, that a new restaurant has little net economic impact because it merely draws business away from existing restaurants and, with a fixed population, each new restaurant is likely to result in the closing of an existing place. In that context, The University of Memphis is an income generator for the community.

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