A University of Saint Mary leader said the Leavenworth private school has historically benefitted the area, and findings from a new study back up her statement.
"As one of the oldest institutions in Leavenworth, Saint Mary has always had a positive impact on the community," USM President Sister Diane Steele said in a news release. "However, with the growth of Saint Mary over the past 10 years, our economic impact on the area has grown significantly."
On Monday, USM announced findings from a study commissioned by the Kansas Independent College Association. The study indicated USM was responsible for $16.3 million into the Leavenworth County economy in fiscal year 2012-13.
The KICA report, "Demonstrating the Economic Value of the Kansas Independent Colleges and Universities," focused on the economic impact of the state's 18 private colleges. Economic Modeling Specialists International, a company based in Moscow, Idaho, conducted the study.
Findings centered on Saint Mary in the study included the school providing about $84 million in "benefits to society" — $62.8 million in added state income throughout the course of USM graduates' working lives, and $21 million in present value social savings, related to reduced crime, lower unemployment, and increased health and well-being across the state.
Additionally, USM students who moved to Leavenworth County for school added about $2.4 million to the county's economy, and visitors associated with USM added another $1.3 million.
According to the report, the state's 18 colleges generate nearly $1 billion in new income each year for the Kansas economy, creating 21,968 new jobs and $2.8 million in social benefits through "increased business output and improvements in health and public safety that accrue from the graduates of Kansas' private colleges."
The report's findings show the colleges' impact on the state's economy is "nearly equivalent to Kansas hosting the Super Bowl nine times each year," the news release states.
"We have always known that Kansas' independent colleges were important to the Kansas economy," KICA President Matt Lindsey said in the news release. "This study demonstrates just how truly powerful the contribution is that our students, faculty, and institutions make and how essential Kansas' independent colleges are to Kansas' future."
The state's private colleges, according to the news release, enroll more than 10,500 out-of-state students each year and employ 4,390 faculty and staff in Kansas, making the colleges, collectively, the seventh-largest non-governmental employer in the state.
Fall athletes reported for move-in day Saturday at USM, and non-athletes are scheduled to report this weekend. The first day of classes are slated for Aug. 20.
USM spokesman John Shultz said USM's estimated fall enrollment is likely around 1,350 students, among the Leavenworth and Overland Park campuses and students taking classes online.
There are roughly 550 undergraduate students each semester at USM's Leavenworth campus, and an additional 120 doctorate of physical therapy students are estimated this year, he said.
USM was aware the Kansas Independent College Association was preparing the report, Shultz said, but not necessarily of the findings until it was completed.
Those findings aren't surprising to school officials.
"Not particularly surprising when you take into account not just the number of students, but their families … and all the visitors that come in," he said.