Economic Impact of Independent Colleges
This joint OpEd was published in the Reading Eagle, Dec. 10, 2019
Albright and Alvernia share more than just the first two letters in our names.
If you live and work in Pennsylvania, chances are you know an Albright or Alvernia alum, faculty or staff member. You may have visited Albright’s award-winning theatre or insightful Freedman Gallery artwork or seen droves of students wearing Alvernia Holleran Center t-shirts while beautifying the county’s many parks, schools and other local attractions.
You may not know that Reading, Pa., is noted in Ripley’s Believe it or Not as the only place in the United States where a student can go from kindergarten through college all on the same street. As the capstone institution for the city of Reading’s 13th Street Educational Partnership, Albright College is incredibly proud of the many alumni who have graced the halls to earn their education, and are gratified by the generations of employees who have made that education possible.
You may also not know of Alvernia’s Reading Collegiate Scholars Program that offers college-readiness activities to hundreds of students and 10 full-tuition scholarships for Reading High students annually, or that Alvernia is preparing to serve future students at a downtown location through the Reading CollegeTowne strategy.
Together, we develop citizens with the ability to think critically and solve deep problems. While many begin in Reading (including on 13th Street) and move on to see the world after graduation, others who have never heard of Reading come to us from across the country and around the globe — and find their permanent home — living, learning, working and playing in the Greater Reading area.
Generally we celebrate the impact of our institutions by telling the stories of our remarkable graduates. But there are other ways to measure our value.
A new study, conducted on behalf of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania (AICUP) estimates that the two institutions annually impact Pennsylvania’s economy to the tune of $236.1 million. According to the study, Albright and Alvernia support and sustain 2,599 jobs across the state through direct employment as well as indirect jobs that support the institution’s faculty, staff, students and visitors. In addition, the institutions generate more than $11.27 million in tax revenues for state and local government each year.
Combined with student and visitor spending, the day-to-day expenditures of colleges like Albright and Alvernia have a ripple effect throughout the Greater Reading and state economies. All told, while educating 43% of all low income, Pell-eligible degree-seeking students, Pennsylvania’s independent, nonprofit colleges and universities (AICUP schools) generated a whopping $24 billion for the commonwealth last year and supported the employment of more than 195,000 people.
Though run self-sufficiently, Pennsylvania’s “independent” colleges are not passive entities, separated from our communities. We are in fact, proud to be deeply connected, engaged partners. Our students mentor children in every community, our faculty conduct research benefiting the public good and — to put an additional number on impact — the faculty, staff and students of Pennsylvania’s AICUP schools contribute nearly $59 million in charitable giving and provide 5.3 million hours of volunteer service (valued at $68.4 million) on thousands of local projects.
It is our belief that our shared A stands for anchor institutions, and we look forward to anchoring Reading as your neighbors, collaborators and resource for a bright future.
Jacquelyn S. Fetrow, Ph.D. ’82
President and Professor of Chemistry
John R. Loyack