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Study says HCC adds millions to local economy

November 09, 1998|By BRYN MICKLE

A good education may be priceless, but a new study puts a $62 million price tag on the value of Hagerstown Community College to Washington County.

Factoring in everything from staplers on the desks of faculty members to movies rented at local video stores by students, HCC officials said an economic study for the 1997 budget year shows the school had a $62,036,586 impact on the county last year.

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How does a school with a $14 million budget more than quadruple its value to the community?

HCC Director of Institutional Research and Planning Barbara E. Macht said it took eight pages of worksheets to factor in the college's $6.6 million in-county expenses and the estimated spending habits of the college's 340 full-time and part-time employees and its 2,800 to 3,000 students who take for-credit classes.

Culling information from the consumer price index and state and county economic offices, the impact study estimated students spent $25.8 million in Washington County on everything from electric bills to candy bars while college staffers spent $3.1 million in the county.

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The study excluded housing expenses for staff and students and did not take into account the spending habits of its 4,000 to 5,000 noncredit students.

The study factored the expenditures into a formula that included a multiplier of 2.07, a figure based on the estimated number of times those dollars cycle through the local economy.

The study is the third time HCC has examined its impact on the community, but it is the first time the school has incorporated staff and student spending to gauge its overall effect on the county's economy.

A study of fiscal year 1986 showed the college spent $4.3 million in Washington County, while the 1989 fiscal year study showed an increase of in-county spending to $5.9 million. Those studies did not include staff or student spending numbers.

While the study indicates the school's in-county spending in 1997 increased by less than $1 million over the 1989 figure, college President Norman P. Shea attributed the lack of growth to a $2 million investment in computer hardware and software over the past three years. Vendors for those products are in other states, he said.

With $3.7 million of HCC's budget coming from the Washington County Commissioners, Shea said the economic impact study is a good way to show the county that the college is a valuable asset to the county and the surrounding area.

"This is just one way of telling our story," Shea said. "The best way is our students."

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