Anderson University has been in the city for nearly 100 years not only to provide education to its students, but to contribute to its community — and not just through community events like free concerts, President James Edwards said.
“The local economy is impacted by our very presence here as an operation,” he said. “Our assets are about $150 million. Our annual (operating) budget is $65 million, virtually all of it is spent here.”
Assisting the community is something the university is proud of, he said, and something economic officials say makes a difference.
AU’s economic impact on the community
Having more than 2,000 students buying groceries, going to restaurants, and shopping at retail stores “does make an instinct impact,” City Economic Director Greg Winkler said.
And then there is the large group of university employees — over 60 percent — who live in the city and buy meals, clothes, cars, and other goods, while also paying taxes to the city and county, he added.
Those factors contribute to a calculated $92.7 million economic impact, Edwards said. That figure comes from research done by the Independent Colleges of Indiana.
With 434 full-time faculty and staff and approximately 1,000 student employees and part-time employees, salaries and benefits alone exceed $40 million, Edwards said.
Rob Sparks, executive director of the Corporation for Economic Development, said the direct impact includes employee opportunities, such as construction for projects on campus.
“The direct impact is huge,” he said. “I can’t imagine Anderson without AU.”
AU raised $113.8 million in a capital campaign with the completion of the York Performance Hall and Galleries as the most recent result. The school used mostly local contractors, Edwards said.
He said about $11 million came from the county, the rest from other resources.
Then there’s Colts training camp. A collaboration between AU and the city has produced an event generating between $5 million and $6 million in the local economy each year, AU officials said.
Winkler said it’s good exposure for Anderson and central Indiana.
At the state level, AU is one of 31 independent colleges enrolling about 20 percent of students attending four-year colleges.
“Yet they produce 35 percent of the baccalaureate degrees, 37 percent of masters and 25 of doctorates,” Edwards said.
He said state support is “a real bargain for taxpayers” as an independent college does “more with less.”
For each degree earned at an independent college, state taxpayers dole out $6,485, he said. It’s money received through financial aid like 21st Century Scholars and Freedom of Choice scholarships.
For each degree earned at a four-year public university, Edwards said taxpayers spend $67,067.
A role in economic development
Edwards said the Flagship and Falls School of Business are seen as resources for business support, strategic planning and marketing strategies.
The Flagship Enterprise Center is a business incubator the university and city partnered to develop and may be the first example of a private-public partnership in the region, CEO and President Chuck Staley said.
Now, it’s one of the top creators of jobs of any technology park in Indiana, according to the Indiana Business Journal.
“It’s a great partnership,” Winkler said. “The Flagship public-private partnership is a very unique one that makes innovation possible.”
He said the Flagship is “the new face of Anderson on exit 22,” and has the advantage of being located along Interstate 69, with 1.3 million people within a 30-minute drive.
This year alone, Staley said, interest in the Flagship has increased by about four or five times, including global growth with new Chinese companies as “the word is getting out.”
By the end of 2011, he said, 2,117 jobs had been created with a payroll of $69 million in wages and an average full-time equivalent wage of $51,000.
When General Motors left the city, it took intellectual capital with it, Winkler said.
“AU helps bring that back,” he added, as the city, county and university work together.
While the Flagship works with Purdue’s College of Technology and Ivy Tech Community College, Staley said AU stepped up as a leader “at a rare level to find.”
“It’s just a very positive story of accomplishment for which we’re all very excited,” Edwards said. “It will always be a center in transition.”
How AU defines its value to the community
AU is currently in the midst of developing a new engineering program that Edwards said could attract another 300 students over time.
“It can certainly grow to be one of the largest schools in the university if we do it with quality and if we do it with a distinctive edge that we think does meet the needs of the kind of students we tend to recruit here,” he said.
Edwards said research indicated a need and interest in it, and Winkler said it will add to the “attractive and critical manufacturing draw.”
He said companies like Hy-Pro Filtration see that AU is working in that direction and in the next four or five years will have graduates to fill that niche.
Edwards said AU’s stars are its faculty — who publish in textbooks often — and students, many of which are serving in their community.
Sparks said he sees several AU employees serving on different community boards and students doing outreach in churches and tutoring.
On top of internships that provide real-life experiences and can help a student get a foot in the door, Edwards said the volunteer work they put in through numerous social service agencies and academic projects at businesses is valued at $894,000 by federal work force standards alone.
“I think we have to be out there (in the community),” he said. “There are lots of wonderful things happening out there.”
— Dani Palmer is a reporter with The Herald Bulletin. Story reposted with permission.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of about 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music, nursing, and theology.