Study: $3.9 billion local income boost from Northern Colorado Public Colleges and Universities

From left to right: Andy Feinstein, president of UNC; Joyce McConnell, president of CSU; Dr. Leah L. Bornstein, president of Aims; Andrew Dorsey, president of Front Range Community College. Photo courtesy of Curtis Ellzey, Aims Community College.

The four public colleges and universities in Northern Colorado added $3.9 billion in income to the economy of Larimer and Weld Counties and supported one of every eight jobs in the region in the fiscal year 2017-18, according to the results of a new economic impact study released on Tuesday.

The Northern Colorado Public Colleges and Universities (NoCoPCU) in the economic value study are Aims Community College, Colorado State University, Front Range Community College and the University of Northern Colorado. The study, conducted by Emsi, measured the overall economic impact of NoCoPCU, and also the return on investment for students and Colorado taxpayers.

The study uses a wide array of data based on several sources, including the FY 2017-18 academic and financial reports from NoCoPCU; industry and employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Census Bureau; outputs of Emsi’s Multi-Regional Social Accounting Matrix model; and a variety of published materials relating education to social behavior.

Highlights of the economic impacts of NoCoPCU for Larimer and Weld Counties include:

  • The net impact of institutions’ day-to-day operations (payroll, expenses and employee spending) during the analysis year was approximately $1.1 billion in added income to the Larimer and Weld economy.
  • NoCoPCU’s research spending generated $299 million for the region.
  • The net impact of NoCoPCU’s construction spending in FY2017-18 was $126 million.
  • Start-up and spin-off companies generated $227.9 million.
  • Spending by students, those who relocated or stayed in the region and who wouldn’t be in the region if not for the institutions, added approximately $147.9 million.
  • Contributions from alumni currently employed in the regional workforce amounted to $2 billion.
  • This combined total equates to a $3.9 billion impact, or 50,668 jobs supported for Larimer and Weld Counties’ economy during FY17-18.

The overall economic value is significantly higher than was measured in a similar study conducted two years earlier, and the count of supported jobs increased markedly, due to updates and improvements in methodology, background data, and institutional data. As a result, the present study offers a more relevant, comprehensive picture of the institutions’ value.


The study also included an investment analysis which looked at the total amount NoCoPCU received in FY 2017-18 through tuition and fees, government student aid, and other all other revenue, as provided by students, taxpayers and society. That investment resulted in an average rate of return of 12.3% for the investment students make, and 14.1% for the investment by taxpayers.

Student Perspective

NoCoPCU’s FY 2017-18 students paid a present value of $641.5 million to cover the cost of tuition, fees, supplies, and interest on student loans. They also forwent $495.8 million in money they would have earned had they been working instead of attending college.

In return for their investment, students will receive $3.6 billion in increased earnings over their working lives. This translates to a return of $3.20 in higher future earnings for every dollar students invested in their education. Students’ average annual rate of return is 12.3%. The study notes this return outpaces the average 9.9% return investors see in the U.S. stock market.

Taxpayer Perspective

Taxpayers provided NoCoPCU with $307.2 million of funding in FY 2017-18. In return, they will benefit from added tax revenue, stemming from students’ higher lifetime earnings and increased business output, amounting to $1 billion. A reduced demand for government-funded services in Colorado will add another $236.1 million in benefits to taxpayers.

For every dollar of public money invested in NoCoPCU, taxpayers will receive $4 in return, over the course of students’ working lives. The average annual rate of return for taxpayers is 14.1%.

Social Perspective

In FY 2017-18, Colorado invested $2.5 billion to support NoCoPCU. In turn, the Colorado economy will grow by $12.4 billion, over the course of students’ working lives. Society will also benefit from $649.5 million of public and private sector savings.

For every dollar invested in NoCoPCU in FY 2017-18, people in Colorado will receive $5.20 in return, for as long as NoCoPCU’s FY 2017-18 students remain active in the state workforce.


Quotes from the presidents of the NoCoPCU institutions:

Dr. Leah L. Bornstein, Aims president

“At a time when many have questioned the necessity of higher education, these data points demonstrate both the inherent value of post-secondary credentials to a region and the need for continued support of higher education.”

Joyce McConnell, CSU president

“Public colleges and universities offer an incredible return on investment, not just for the students who receive a life-changing education, but for the communities that are home to the institutions. This report reinforces the critical role higher education plays as a key driver of our regional economy, and the ripple effect institutions have in making our communities desirable places to live, work and learn.”

Andrew Dorsey, Front Range Community College president

“This data shows that both students and the public earn a high return on their investments in higher education. And it confirms what we hear regularly from our graduates – that education opens doors and changes lives.  As more and more jobs require post-secondary credentials, the benefits of public education to students and to Northern Colorado will only grow. “

Andy Feinstein, UNC president

“This report affirms the important role of Northern Colorado’s public higher education institutions not just as gateways to opportunity, but as economic engines for our communities, the region, and the state. Simply put, whether you are a student pursuing a degree, a state or local government, or a partner in industry, there is always great value in investing in higher education.”


About Emsi and the NoCoPCU institutions


Emsi is a labor market analytics firm that integrates data from a wide variety of sources to serve professionals in higher education, economic development, workforce development, talent acquisition, and site selection. Emsi is a leading provider of economic impact studies and labor market data to educational institutions in the U.S. and internationally. Since 2000, Emsi has completed over 2,000 economic impact studies for institutions across three countries. For more information about Emsi’s products and services, visit

Aims Community College

Aims Community College is one of the most progressive two-year colleges in Colorado. Founded 52 years ago in Greeley, Aims has since established locations in Fort Lupton, Loveland and Windsor. Curriculum now includes 4,000 day, evening, weekend and online courses annually in more than 200 degree and certificate programs. Aims Community College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Aims Community College is an Equal Employment Opportunity Employer and an Equal Opportunity Educational Institution.

Colorado State University

Colorado State University, one of the nation’s top-performing public research institutions, has more than 34,000 students, and annual research funding of more than $300 million. Founded in 1870 as Colorado’s land-grant institution, CSU’s is renowned for its world-class faculty and research and academic programs in infectious disease, atmospheric science, clean energy technologies, human and animal health, environmental science, global business and more. CSU graduates on average carry less student debt and are employed at a higher rate than their peers nationwide.

Front Range Community College

FRCC is the largest community college in Colorado—with three campuses along the Front Range. The college focuses on the success of more than 27,000 students annually in classes for college credit, and more than 5,000 people each year in business training and continuing education. FRCC offers almost 200 degrees and certificates. We are the top transfer institution for the University of Colorado Boulder and Colorado State University. We also train students for immediate employment in more than 35 high-demand fields.

University of Northern Colorado

UNC is a doctoral research university with premier programs in education, health sciences, business and the performing arts. Founded in 1889 as the state teachers’ college, UNC has always worked to promote human understanding and enrich lives. With approximately 13,000 students enrolled, UNC focuses on five areas of engaged learning: research and creative work, civic engagement, global experiences, leadership and professional experience.


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