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Private, nonprofit colleges – Economic engines in their communities

When we think of WAICU-member colleges and universities, we think first and foremost of excellent educational opportunities. This is surely appropriate, but there are other contributions by Wisconsin’s private, nonprofit colleges and universities. WAICU is a member of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU). NAICU recently released the report Private, Nonprofit Higher Education: Shaping Lives and Anchoring Communities. According to the report’s findings, nationwide, private, nonprofit colleges generated $591.5 billion in economic impact in 2018-19 and supported 3.4 million jobs.

The WAICU research staff used the report methodology to calculate the impact of our private, nonprofit institutions right here in Wisconsin and confirmed the following:

• Wisconsin private, nonprofit institutions enroll 19,346 Pell recipients. Perhaps not a well-known fact but WAICU institutions’ low-income enrollment is higher than that of the state’s four-year public institutions—31 percent compared to 24 percent respectively.
• Wisconsin private, nonprofit institutions generate $7 billion in economic impact and create 62,825 jobs.
• Over the course of their 40-year careers, the 9,173 bachelor’s degree recipients at Wisconsin private, nonprofit colleges and universities in 2019 will earn $49.4 billion, support and sustain a cumulative total of 273,740 jobs, and generate $6 billion in tax revenue at the local, state, and federal levels.
• Wisconsin private, nonprofit institutions support $1.32 billion generated in local, state, and federal taxes.

The report also discusses the economic impacts of student financial aid and the return on investment of that aid for individuals and communities as well as being a targeted means of fulfilling critical workforce needs. At the state level, the state of Wisconsin invests in the Wisconsin Grant program for low-income students attending private, nonprofit and public colleges and universities. WAICU members also do their part for low-income students. Two-thirds of the grant aid distributed to students enrolled in Wisconsin’s private colleges are private funds raised by the institutions themselves. For every $1 received in state financial aid, the institution matches that amount by $20, on average, making it an impressive return on investment for the state of Wisconsin.

Each year, Wisconsin’s private nonprofit institutions produce more than 12,700 graduates, without operating support from the taxpayers. WAICU members grant 24 percent of the bachelor’s degrees and 35 percent of the advanced degrees. Among the bachelor’s degrees, the private, nonprofit colleges and universities produce 25 percent of the business graduates, 25 percent of the engineering graduates, and 51 percent of the nursing graduates. Among advanced degrees, WAICU members produce 45 percent of the education degrees, 47 percent of the medical doctoral degrees, and 100 percent of the dentistry degrees.

It is important for policymakers and the public to understand that Wisconsin’s private, nonprofit colleges and universities, and their counterparts nationwide, are a public service for the citizens of the state and for keeping Wisconsin’s workforce competitive.