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Impact of independent, nonprofit colleges and universities in Massachusetts stands at $71B annually: Supporting 320K+ jobs


March 30, 2023

Belmont, MA – The Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Massachusetts (AICU Mass), which represents fifty-nine independent, nonprofit colleges and universities across the Commonwealth, today released an economic impact study that demonstrates the statewide annual impact in Massachusetts of its members at $71.1B.

The study was conducted by the national, independent research firm Econsult Solutions, Inc. (ESI).

ESI’s research also shows that the educational and research activities of the colleges and universities in AICU Mass generate $2.4B in tax revenues to the Commonwealth, as well as an economic impact of $28B from an alumni wage premium, and collectively support 320,800 jobs.

“In Massachusetts, we know instinctively that our private colleges and universities are crucial for our economy, with these institutions helping to define what it means to learn, work and live in the Commonwealth,” said Rob McCarron, president and CEO of AICU Mass. “This Economic Impact Study puts that into hard numbers that quantify just how crucial. Across this state, these
schools are the economic engines for their communities and their regions. Taken together, they  are one of the most important anchors of our robust and vibrant knowledge-based economy.”

The study details the impact of AICU Mass members in four categories: Operations; capital spending; student and visitor (ancillary) spending; and the alumni wage premium. The economic impact in each category, broken down, is:

Operations: $35B. Operations are the costs associated of running a campus, such as payroll and purchasing. Oftentimes a local college or university is a community’s largest employer and among the largest procurers of goods and services.
Capital spending: $4.4B. Capital spending is defined as spending and investments in new construction and on-going maintenance, which supports the construction sector and its related ecosystem.
Ancillary spending: $3.6B. Ancillary spending is student and visitor spending such as campus visits; reunion weekends; commencements, etc.
Alumni wage: $28B. Alumni wage describes the spending power of the alumni of AICU Mass institutions who live and work in the state.

“We know that from one end of the state to the other, our private colleges and universities are  producing patents and vital research that drive new products, supporting our current industries and helping create startups,” John R. Regan, President and CEO, Associated Industries of Massachusetts. “What the research makes clear in this Economic Impact Study is their enormous daily contribution to our economy in direct spending and jobs, with ripple effects keeping so many small- and mid-sized companies viable.”

Regional Impacts

Eastern Massachusetts has one of the densest concentrations of private higher education in the world – and the economic impact reflects it.

The region surrounding Boston hosts 42 AICU Mass member schools with a combined economic impact of $64B and supporting 283,000 jobs.

While Eastern Massachusetts is home to the majority of the private colleges and universities, and to the bulk of the economic dollars and jobs, the presence of private higher education institutions is felt in all regions of the state.

In Western Massachusetts, 11 AICU Mass schools have an economic impact of $3.3B in the region and support 19,400 job. In central MA, there are eight AICU Mass members, two with campuses based in Boston, which have an economic impact of $3.8B in the region and support 18,800 jobs.

“If you live in Boston or Cambridge or one of the small towns that host so many of our Massachusetts colleges then you know the unique intangible benefits – the vibrancy of the students, the access to the arts, to theater and music and classes. What this report shows in hard data are the very tangible impacts of dollars and jobs,” said Suffolk University President Marisa J. Kelly and AICU Mass board chair. “The research makes clear the enormous daily contribution of private higher education to our economy in direct spending and jobs.”

AICU Mass institutions are not only feeding the future workforce for Massachusetts, collectively they educate the majority of Pell Grant recipients* and first-generation students attending a four-year college or university in Massachusetts, while also producing the majority of STEM, nursing and allied healthcare professions earning an Associate’s degree or higher in
Massachusetts** that will support the Massachusetts workforce for years to come.

“This report should serve as a critical reminder of the tremendous impact of the private colleges and universities in the state, not just those detailed in the report, but those less quantifiable, added McCarron. “Our knowledge-based economy and access to talent is why companies relocate their headquarters to the Commonwealth; it’s what helps our state economy better weather recession, and is often cited as an invaluable asset in state bond ratings. Massachusetts and the higher education community can take pride in the work we are doing together to build and sustain a unique educational ecosystem that delivers significant impact to local communities, brings opportunity to people’s lives, and creates knowledge that benefits the world.”

A full copy of the report is available by clicking here.

About the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts

AICU Mass represents 59 independent colleges and universities throughout the Commonwealth, educating more than 285,000 students each year and employing nearly 100,000. Our members include large nationally renowned research universities, smaller, highly regarded liberal arts colleges, religiously affiliated institutions, and colleges with special missions focused on business or music or allied health services.


*National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, Federal Student Aid Summary, January 2023

**Source: The Integrated Postsecondary Data System, 2020-21 Completions, First Majors, Degrees Total, Grand Total, STEM-related Classification codes