The USC smokestack rises above the skyline of Columbia

UofSC plays essential role in statewide economy, workforce

New study confirms university’s growing impact

The University of South Carolina pumps approximately $6.2 billion annually into the state’s economy, according to a new study, representing a $700 million growth in annual impact over four years. 

Background: The findings are from researchers at UofSC’s Darla Moore School of Business. Researchers have updated a 2017 report that found the university’s annual statewide economic impact was $5.5 billion.

The big picture: The study — which defines total economic impact as the annual amount of goods and services associated with the university — confirms and expands upon the university’s role university as a major contributor to the Palmetto State’s growing job market and an essential part of its future economic prosperity. 

What they’re saying: “The economic benefits of higher education are far reaching for both individual citizens and for the state as a whole,” said Moore School economist Joseph Von Nessen, the study’s lead researcher. 

Key findings:

  • The $6.2 billion annual impact figure represents the university’s eight system institutions.
  • The UofSC system supports a total of 63,689 jobs, representing $2.6 billion in labor income.
  • The total annual economic impact of UofSC on the Columbia metropolitan region is approximately $3.7 billion.
  • UofSC contributes $1.7 billion toward labor income and supports 1 in every 9 jobs in the Midlands community (43,876 jobs overall). Of those, 13,705 are employees working directly for UofSC.
  • The UofSC system is responsible for returning more than $202 million in annual tax revenue to state coffers.

Challenge and opportunity in the Midlands: The study also examined how the university’s Columbia campus will play a central role in boosting future economic growth in the Midlands region, which has for the past decade lagged behind the Charleston and Greenville/Spartanburg metropolitan areas. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic could pose a significant challenge to the region’s ability to spur growth in the short term, given the state capital’s reliance on state and federal funding, Von Nessen said. However, UofSC’s focus on producing highly skilled graduates in competitive fields, coupled with its efforts to attract new private research partners to the region, “has the potential to significantly boost growth throughout the 2020s,” the study concluded.

“The economic benefits of higher education are far reaching for both individual citizens and for the state as a whole.”

Joey Von Nessen, Darla Moore School of Business

Partnerships drive growth: UofSC, through its Office of Innovation, Partnerships, and Economic Engagement, has worked to create research partnerships with corporate leaders in advanced manufacturing, artificial intelligence, pharmaceuticals and more. The proposed UofSC health sciences campus also will include a new School of Medicine and public/private research laboratories, creating a hub for biomedical education and innovation in the heart of Columbia. 

Talent retention is key: Growth in existing industry and new business spin-offs would help keep skilled graduates in the Midlands. That’s critical, the study says, because even small increases in the retention of college graduates can have a significant regional economic impact — an estimated $14 million annually for every 1 percent increase in graduate retention. 

A future Moore School study will further examine the impact of the individual system institutions on various regions of the state, including Aiken, Beaufort, Upstate and the four regional Palmetto College institutions.

Read the entire study [pdf] online.

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