USC System, Alumni Pump $4.1 Billion Into State’s Economy Annually; USC Upstate Campus Has $388.5 Million Impact

January 12, 2012 at 2:39 pm

The University of South Carolina and its alumni drive the state’s economy by supporting nearly 53,000 jobs – about 1 in every 37 jobs in South Carolina – and pumping $4.1 billion dollars into the state’s economy every year.

The figures were released on Thursday (Jan. 12) by Darla Moore School economists Joey Von Nessen and Doug Woodward. Von Nessen joined USC Upstate Chancellor Tom Moore and J M Smith Corporation CEO Bill Cobb in downtown Spartanburg to present the findings to local business leaders and media representatives. View the video here.

The university’s eight campuses, which employ 14,000 people, and their 155,000 alumni in the Palmetto State contribute $75 million more to the state in taxes than USC receives in state appropriations, Von Nessen said.

“This is a key finding of this study because it shows that in carrying out its mission to educate South Carolinians, USC also helps to generate a sizable amount of revenue for the state,” Von Nessen said.

“The economic impact of the University of South Carolina is sweeping,” USC President Harris Pastides said. “Education is acknowledged as the path to economic success and increased quality of life for individuals. However, these results illustrate the benefits, including economic prosperity, that the University of South Carolina contributes to our state’s citizens in every community regardless of their connection to Carolina.”

Specifically, the $4.1 billion represents the total dollar value of all goods and services associated with USC, including higher wages earned by graduates and business activity resulting from the university’s spending.

South Carolina residents with bachelor’s degrees earn on average $15,000 more per year than high school graduates, Woodward said, creating what is called a spillover effect for communities.

“When the number of college‐educated workers in a community rises, it tends to increase the incomes of all workers, not just the college‐educated workers,” Woodward said. “These are known as economic spillover effects. For example, college‐educated workers bring new knowledge and skills sets to the workplace that are then partially shared and transferred to others on the job, making other workers more productive.”

In addition to the financial boost, communities with larger numbers of college graduates tend to have better schools, better health care and more involvement from residents, Von Nessen said. And, crime rates tend to be lower in those communities.

USC’s impact is felt all across the state, not just around its eight campuses. Alumni living in Charleston pump $310 million into the state’s economy; in the Grand Strand, alumni account for $137 million of state economic output; and, in the Pee Dee, $132 million a year goes into the state’s economy from alumni living in that region.

The USC Upstate campus, which boasts a student enrollment of 5,500 and an alumni base of nearly 20,000, has an economic impact calculated at $388.5 million.

  • $154.2 million for alumni impact (This represents the increased demand for goods and services that result from higher household incomes due to wage increases associated with attainment of college degrees.)
  • $192.9 million for spillover effects (The number resulting when a larger percentage of the population has a degree. An educated populace leads to knowledge transfer, which results in increased productivity, which translates into higher wages.)
  • $41.3 million in expenditure effects (The non-state-funded expenditures made by USC Upstate and the impact that it has on other businesses.)
  • JOBS: 4,130 (The number of jobs in South Carolina directly and indirectly supported by USC Upstate.)

The study examined the impact of higher wages that working alumni earn beyond what they would have earned without a USC degree; identified the impact of the increase in wages for all workers in South Carolina created by spillover effects; estimated the economic impact of nontax dollars the university spends; and quantified the increased state tax revenues resulting from the higher wages and expenditures.

The economic impact measured how expenditures increased the demand for goods and services in the region over what the demands would have been without the presence of a university campus in the community.

The full study of USC’s economic impact is available at