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The Economic Footprint of Michigan's Fifteen Public Universities

Michigan is home to some of the earliest institutions of public higher education in the country. Michigan’s public universities began with the establishment of the University of Michigan in Detroit in 1817, while Michigan was still a territory. The most recent addition was Saginaw Valley State University near Saginaw in 1963. Michigan’s network of public higher education institutions now includes 15 four-year universities scattered across the state. They collectively enroll over 300,000 students.

Michigan’s public universities enhance the quality of life for students, alumni, and residents in many ways. While the total historical, cultural, social, and economic benefits that these universities provide to the state are in some ways immeasurable, we can measure the economic footprint of Michigan’s public universities. This footprint includes:

  • spending by the schools, employees, and students;
  • activity by Michigan companies that rely upon Michigan universities for their business;
  • jobs and salaries at the universities themselves; and,
  • to an extent, jobs and salaries in the cities and towns that the universities occupy.

The economic footprint of Michigan’s public universities is manifest in the everyday lives of hundreds of thousands of Michigan residents. The cities and towns surrounding these universities are replete with stores, contractors, and households that depend on the presence of the universities and their students for income. Michigan’s public universities employ residents and spend billions of dollars that support local businesses in literally every county in the state.

The Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan (PCSUM) commissioned Anderson Economic Group (AEG) to perform a comprehensive and rigorous analysis of the economic footprint of the state’s 15 public universities. In this report, we quantify the total economic footprint of the 15 universities, estimating the total spending, earnings, and employment that they support in the State of Michigan. We also provide aggregate information about the universities’ students and alumni.

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