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Group of colleges releases study on financial impact - Report says Baltimore colleges contribute $17.2 billion to economy

By Marie Cushing and Heather Barbakoff | March 5, 2008

A first-ever report issued by the Baltimore Collegetown Network (BCN) this week says the group's member institutions have contributed $17.2 billion to the regional economy.

BCN executives and Maryland public officials hope the report will shed light on the contributions of colleges and universities in the Baltimore City area.

"This is really the first time this kind of study has been done," Baltimore Collegetown Network Executive Director Kristen Campbell said in a press conference at the Old Baltimore County Courthouse on Monday.

Baltimore Mayor Shelia Dixon said the report showed that "we do have every key ingredient to be successful."

Of the $17.2 billion the BCN contributes to the economy, around $8 billion is created through direct expenditures. These include salary, equipment and other operating expenses. The other $9 billion is created indirectly from money spent by University employees.

The network has 63,369 employees, making it the sixth-largest source of jobs in the region. These numbers include employees at the Hopkins Hospital and the University of Maryland Medical Campus.

"It was very exciting to have this great information gathered and assimilated in one place. We could have each thought of the impact individually, but to see the impact of every institution in Baltimore magnifies the importance of higher education," Baltimore County Executive James Smith said

Hopkins Director of Community Affairs Salem Reiner said the report was a "very positive indicator of importance that individual intuitions and colleges play, including Hopkins."

Hopkins contributed $7 billion to the regional community, according to the last report compiled on its contributions, which was released in 2003. According to the same report, Hopkins was the largest private employer in Maryland.

Reiner said Hopkins plans to compile a new study of economic impact within the next few years, but was unsure of the exact date.

"The 2003 report we have is part of the answer, but whenever you do these kinds of reports you have to get additional updated information," Reiner said.

Reiner described the Baltimore Collegetown Network as the "economic engine for the Baltimore metro area. This report shows on a fundamental level how important this consortium of colleges and universities are as an industry." ?

"We didn't know what to expect. To find out it was $17 billion, it was beyond our wildest dreams," said Theresa Bedoya, vice president of admission and financial aid at the Maryland Institute College of Arts. Bedoya also served as a member of the executive committee of Collegetown governing board.

"How do we connect the information about the billions of dollars raised by the universities to the babies that will be born? We can show them that they have an opportunity," Dixon said.

Campbell said the network was prepared to make the steps to capitalize on Baltimore's potential as a college town, but that help would be needed. "Colleges can't make this happen on their own," she said. "The network could become a strong partner in regional development plans."

Reiner said he hoped the report would "show that Baltimore City can be and is a desirable destination."

Smith noted the potential of success in Maryland, one of the wealthiest states in the country, with one of the same highest rates of education. "I don't think it's a coincidence that the most educated state is also the wealthiest," he said.

BCN executives have not yet established how they plan to capitalize on the information reported in the study.

"Our next job is to come up with the concrete," BCN Governing Board President Peter Toran said.

"Links between the academic sector, the public sector and the private sector result in a powerful regional economy. We need to create additional infrastructure, support partnerships between academic and private institutions," Campbell said.

She hoped these partnerships would encourage more graduates to remain in the Baltimore region.

According to BCN research, 31 percent of graduates from Collegetown institutions remain in Baltimore, while 53 percent remain in-state. However, Campbell said, this data did not measure how many of these students originally came from the area.

Campbell also said she hoped the study would "attract businesses to region and support those we already have here."

Smith said he planned to take the report to an international shopping center convention in Las Vegas next week, where he hoped to show attendees the impact of higher education on the economy in the Baltimore area.

Reiner said he hoped the study would improve relationships between institutions and the communities they belong to. "I can't imagine that it would be damaging. Higher education is a powerful resource in the community. There are inherent challenges, as we all know, with living in dense urban areas. What this report talks about is [colleges] being part of the community on a lot of different fronts," he said.

Smith said he thought the report would help to improve the relationship between colleges and the communities they are a part of. "We work very hard to enhance the town and gown relationship of Towson and Goucher with the Towson community and this can only enhance it," he said.

It took about a little over a year to get all the information and had to gather all the information into a publication, Bedoya said.

Campbell said that information from Hopkins came from several sources, including the college and hospital. Consisting of reprentatives from each institution, the Collegetown board "helped to determine the scope, provide information and manage the process, and assisted with the overall funding of the report and it's rollout," Campbell said.

Reiner said he personally provided information about the University's community engagement.?"When you think what makes this work is that the partnership extends into the local community. Whether it is the neighborhood around Homewood or in East Baltimore, there's an inherent relationship that is grassroots but then extends to the city, region and state," Reiner said.

The study also looked at other similar clusters of colleges in California and Boston to see what worked in those areas.

According to Toran, the idea for the study came about in the fall of 2006. "Baltimore County was one of the primary founders of the project. The Network came up with the idea for the research and approached the county for funding," said Fronda Cohen, marketing and communications director for the Baltimore County Department of Economic Development.

Campbell said that the Network hopes to further efforts that would improve the lives of Baltimore college students, such as the Collegetown Shuttle, which the report showed as responsible for transporting 72,000 riders." Collegetown has taken the lead in enhancing transportation services that?link students, faculty and staff to many campuses as well as to commercial centers and attractions," she said.

External funding from the Baltimore County Office of Economic Development, the Baltimore Development Corporation and the Goldseker Foundation covered data analysis for the Jacob France Institute at University of Baltimore and RESI of Towson University.

The study also showed that Collegetown graduates meet 88 percent of Maryland's occupational demand. Higher education institutions create more social workers, dentists, physicians and lawyers than Maryland can accommodate, but produce fewer teachers, engineers and pharmacists than are needed.

Hopkins Vice Provost for Budgets and Planning?James Zeller could not be reached for comment. Zeller was the Hopkins representative on the Collegetown Governing Board.

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