Athens State University Creates Economic Impact of Over $200 Million in North Alabama Region

Athens State University

Athens State University (ATSU) added $200.4 million in income to the ATSU Service Region economy of Limestone, Madison, Morgan, Marshall, and Cullman Counties in Northern Alabama during the 2019-2020 fiscal year. This added income supported 3,141 regional jobs, using the jobs-to-sales ratios specific to each industry in the region. Among non-education industry sectors, Athens State’s spending and alumni in the Professional & Technical Services industry sector supported 260 jobs during this time. The total economic impact is equal to the sum of the operations spending impact, the visitor and student spending impacts, and the alumni impact discussed below.

Operations Spending Impact

Athens State adds economic value to the ATSU Service Region as an employer of regional residents and a large-scale buyer of goods and services. In FY 2019-20, the university employed 362 full-time and part-time faculty and staff, 81% of whom lived in the ATSU Service Region. Total payroll at ATSU was $26.8 million, much of which was spent in the region for groceries, mortgage and rent payments, dining out, and other household expenses. In addition, the university spent $10.7 million on day-to-day expenses related to facilities, supplies, and professional services.

Athens State’s day-to-day operations spending added $33.0 million in income to the region during the analysis year. This figure represents the university’s payroll, the multiplier effects generated by the in-region spending of the university and its employees, and a downward adjustment to account for funding that the university received from regional sources. The $33.0 million in added income is equivalent to supporting 425 jobs in the region.

Visitor Spending Impact

Thousands of visitors from outside the region were attracted to Athens State during the analysis year to attend commencement, the Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention, and other activities sponsored by the university. While in the region, visitors spent money for lodging, food, transportation, and other personal expenses. The off-campus expenditures of the university’s out-of-region visitors generated a net impact of $506.9 thousand in added income for the regional economy in FY 2019-20. This $506.9 thousand in added income is equivalent to supporting 14 jobs.

Student Spending Impact

Approximately 27% of students attending Athens State originated from outside the region in FY 2019-20, and some of these students relo­cated to the ATSU Service Region to attend the university. These students may not have come to the region if the university did not exist. In addition, some in-region students, referred to as retained students, would have left the ATSU Service Region if not for the existence of Athens State. While attending the university, these relocated and retained students spent money on groceries, accommoda­tion, transportation, and other household expenses. This spending generated $1.3 million in added income for the regional economy in FY 2019-20, which supported 34 jobs in the ATSU Service Region.

Alumni Impact

The education and training Athens State provides for regional residents has the greatest impact. Since its establishment, students have studied at Athens State and entered the regional workforce with greater knowledge and new skills. Today, thousands of former Athens State students are employed in the ATSU Service Region. As a result of their education from the university, the students receive higher earnings and increase the productivity of the businesses that employ them. In FY 2019-20, Athens State alumni generated $165.6 million in added income for the regional economy, which is equivalent to supporting 2,668 jobs.

The results of this study demonstrate that Athens State creates value from multiple per­spectives. The university benefits regional businesses by increasing consumer spending in the region and supplying a steady flow of qualified, trained workers to the workforce. Athens State enriches the lives of students by raising their lifetime earnings and helping them achieve their individual potential. The university benefits state taxpayers through increased tax receipts and a reduced demand for government-supported social services. Finally, Athens State benefits society as a whole in Alabama by creating a more prosperous economy and generating a variety of savings through the improved lifestyles of students.

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