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Written by Lincoln Vander Veen
January 4, 2021
Seattle University had a total economic impact of $516,187,078 in 2018, the most recent year the data was available, according to a study commissioned by the Independent Colleges of Washington (ICW) and completed by Quinnipiac University economist Mark Paul Guis. In all, the 10 institutions that comprise ICW had a combined economic impact of $2.19 billion and were responsible for 22,305 jobs.
ICW, founded in 1953, represents accredited nonprofit colleges and universities in Washington including Seattle U. The other members include Seattle Pacific University, Whitman College, Heritage University, University of Puget Sound, Pacific Lutheran University, Gonzaga University, Saint Martin’s University, Whitworth University and Walla Walla University.
The data, compiled this fall, is the most recent indication that independent colleges and universities play an outsized role in the economic health of the communities in which they are located.
Taken as a whole, ICW colleges and universities represent a Top 20 employer in the state of Washington. Additionally, as of 2017, ICW member institutions awarded 20 percent of bachelor’s and advanced degrees earned in Washington and students of color represented 34 percent of total enrollment. Perhaps most compellingly, students who attend an ICW institution graduate at a higher rate (82 percent) than the national average (76 percent).
“Independent, private, not-for-profit campuses provide a critical stabilizing effect on local economies,” says ICW president Terri Standish-Kuon. “Students, faculty and staff also contribute significantly through community service activities, as well as research, innovation and entrepreneurship that directly drives economic development.”
The total economic impact of a university can be measured in terms of direct and induced spending in the local economy. Direct spending is defined as the amount of money spent by the university and its employees, students and visitors. The induced economic impact is the additional employment and expenditures of local industries that result because of that direct spending. The total economic impact in this study, then, is the sum of direct and induced spending.
In the case of Seattle U and its total economic impact, the report concludes employees of the university spent $151,060,272, students spent $83,395,697, visitors $12,633,526 and the university itself $41,328,207—plus $25,925,000 in capital spending—for a total of $314,345,702 in direct spending. When combined with $201,841,375 in induced spending, the final figure of $516,187,078 is reached.
“The…results [of the study] suggest that the member institutions of ICW have a very significant and very positive impact on both state and local economies,” wrote Quinnipiac’s Guis. “Given that independent colleges are an important and integral part of the state economy, public policies that affect the abilities of these universities to attract and retain quality students, faculty and staff have significant impacts on the overall economic health of the state of Washington.”
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