College Impact 101: Economics

By KBJR News 1

October 13, 2010 Updated Oct 13, 2010 at 10:02 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - When it comes to spending money, UWS Junior Brandon Olander says he's fairly frugal.

"I try to regulate myself to $100 to $200 a month," Olander said.

Fellow classmate Nikki Ollig spends a little more but keeps a close eye on her budget.

"If I have to fill up on gas, a little more, probably $60 dollars a week," Ollig said.

They are just a couple of the nearly 27,000 college students in the Twin Ports. But, do the math and it all adds up to big business for the Twin Ports.

At the Electric Fetus in downtown Duluth, manager Kerry Brown says college students are the shot in the arm her store needs.

"They're setting up shop, they're buying things for dorms, their apartments, parents are buying them winter coats, practical stuff," said Brown.

Brown says college students pick up where summer tourists leave off.

"They come back to town and it's great, they give us another month of really brisk business that we wouldn't have otherwise."

Just like the drinks, the money is pouring in at Dublin Irish Pub on Superior street. Pub owner Mike Maxim says major attractions in town help big time.

"The universities really bring a lot of money to the town, especially with the new DECC expansion and UMD Bulldogs, with the

hockey season coming around," Maxim said.

A 2009 study by the University of Wisconsin Superior shows the college generated $41.2M dollars in spending and income for Superior and Douglas County. In a similar 2007 study, Lake Superior College, added an estimated $98M dollars to Duluth's economy.

But when you break it all down, you'll find the money students are putting in the pockets of the Twin Ports is for more than just clothing and food.

College students need a place to live and many call off campus housing home. It's a boost for a fledging housing market.

"We finally get what we wanted which was more rental housing for college students," Drew Digby, the Regional Analyst for the Minnesota Department of Economic and Employment Development. "So all of a sudden the demand for people to buy houses declined at the same time the rest of the housing market fell apart. "

Many area college students are key employees in the health-care industry in the Twin Ports. While students are lower paid, this special sector of the workforce contributes significantly to the economy with its sheer volume. The College of St. Scholastica knows that first hand.

"We produce a lot of students who want to be in the health-care industry or somewhere in that area and are fortunate it enough

to find work in Duluth, in the healthcare industry," said Steve Lyon, the Dean of Students at the College of St. Scholastica.

College students may not realize how much their spending impacts the local economy. But here, every dollar counts.

With the number of students in the Ports equaling one fourth of the population, the way of life also changes for those who live here year-round. We'll take a closer look at that Thursday night on the KDLH 3 News at Ten.

Recent Economic Impact on the Twin Ports

College of St. Scholastica: $213M (Includes campuses in St. Paul, St. Cloud, Brainerd and Rochester)
University of Minnesota-Duluth: $374M
University of Wisconsin-Superior: $41.2M
Lake Superior College: $98M

Written for the web by Kevin Jacobsen