WVNCC brings $233.5M in added income

WHEELING — A new economic study shows West Virginia Northern Community College generates a total annual impact of $233.5 million in added income to the region.

In turn, the $233.5 million supports 2,955 regional jobs, the independent study found. Data from 2016-17 was used in the analysis.

WVNCC Interim President Michael Koon called the study results “extremely impressive.” Speaking at a news conference Thursday, he said the college’s total impact is “very, very significant. … This is phenomenal.”

The study also found that the state’s nine community colleges have a combined annual impact of $1.1 billion. West Virginia Northern accounts for about one-fourth of that amount, Koon said.

“This rate of return is much greater than what they see all around the state,” he added.

However, he said analysts cautioned school officials not to compare their figures with other institutions’ numbers “because there are so many different factors” affecting each college’s results.

The West Virginia Community and Technical College System commissioned the study to assess the impact of the state’s community colleges on their respective communities, Koon said. The system contracted with Emsi, an Idaho firm that has completed more than 1,800 studies over a 15-year period.

Emsi, which Koon said uses “very conservative” methodology, conducted a three-part analysis of the college’s economic impact by studying operations spending, student spending and alumni impact.

“WVNCC’s day-to-day operations spending added $13.3 million in income to the region during the analysis year,” according to the study’s executive summary. This figure includes payroll and expenditures for goods and services.

Spending by the college’s students “generated $929,800 in added income for the regional economy in FY 2016-17, which supported 19 jobs in the Upper Ohio Valley,” the study states.

Regarding alumni, the analysts said, “The education and training WVNCC provides for regional students has the greatest impact. … In FY 2016-17, WVNCC alumni generated $219.3 million in added income for the regional economy, which is equivalent to supporting 2,673 jobs.”

Northern’s total impact benefits regional industries in different ways.

“Among non-education industry sectors, WVNCC supported the most jobs in the health care and social assistance industry sector — supporting 1,221 jobs in FY 2016-17,” the summary states. “These are impacts that would not have been generated without the college’s presence in the Upper Ohio Valley.”

The study also took into account WVNCC’s extensive programs in workforce development with area industries.

“It shows the contributions we’ve made in helping them build on their businesses,” Koon said.

Calling Thursday “another exciting day for the college,” he said officials have had anecdotal information about the school’s impact, but this report provides the first quantitative data.

The study includes an investment analysis, which found a 25.8 percent average annual rate of return for WVNCC students. To put that figure in perspective, the analysts said the stock market has a 30-year average annual return of 10.1 percent.

“This is a phenomenal investment for the dollars you’re spending,” the interim president said.

From a taxpayer’s perspective, WVNCC generates more tax revenue than it takes from public funding. With a benefit-cost ratio of 3.2, the college puts $3.20 back into the state treasury for every dollar it spends, Koon said.

The findings are “a bit more theoretical” from a social perspective, he said, noting a benefit-cost ratio of 11.2 in that category.

The analysts concluded that society benefits primarily from an increased economic base in the state. Society also benefits from the savings generated by WVNCC students’ improved lifestyles.

“Altogether, the social benefits of WVNCC equal a present value of $278.5 million. These benefits include $273.4 million in added income through students’ increased lifetime earnings and increased business output, as well as $5.1 million in social savings related to health, crime and income assistance in West Virginia,” the summary stated.

Koon thinks the findings will help the college recruit more students and may attract new industry to the area. WVNCC operates campuses in Wheeling, Weirton and New Martinsville.