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 Jacque Smith, Director of Public Relations

Jan. 12, 2006

Private college serves the public good:

Study shows Union College adds $39.6 million to annual state economy and helps combat brain drain


LINCOLN—What does a small, private college have to offer a city and state dominated by Big Red higher education power? Plenty, according to an economic impact study conducted by leading regional economist Ernie Goss.

         “Union provides a significant stimuli to the Lincoln and Nebraska economies by adding to the pool of human capital which encourages the startup, growth and location of new Lincoln and Nebraska businesses,” said Goss, the MacAllister Chair in Regional Economics at Creighton University.

        The results of Goss’s economic research on Union College were revealed to Lincoln business leaders Thursday, Jan. 12, during a noon luncheon at the Country Club of Lincoln. David Smith, Union College president, lead the event that he co-hosted with Mike Dunlap, chairman and Co-CEO, Nelnet; Rick Krueger, president, Krueger Development; Marsha Lommel, president and CEO, Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital; and Kent Thompson, president, Thompson Realty group. Dunlap and Thompson are also members of the Union College Board of Trustees.

        In his presentation, “Union College: A Private College Serving the Public Good,” Goss emphasized how Union’s impact on the region reaches beyond significant spending, job opportunities and tax revenue. “The most unique aspect of Union College’s impact on the state compared to the public institutions and other private colleges and universities in the region stems from 80 percent of Union’s student population originating from outside Nebraska,” Goss said. “This percentage is significantly higher than other colleges and universities in the state. Union College introduces students from all over the country and the world to Lincoln, Neb., which adds a brain gain of well-educated college graduates who would likely never have been interested in our state without their experience at Union College. Many of them choose to stay following graduation adding significant economic value to the region.”

         During the luncheon Goss outlined how Union College contributes to a stable job base by offering well-paying, high quality jobs. He shared research conclusions showing that counties with private colleges and universities, including Union’s home Lancaster County, have an increased population growth: 19.2 percent average growth between 1990 and 2004 compared to 1.9 percent for this same time period for counties without a private higher education institution.

Economic Impact Highlights (stated in annual estimates):

  • Spending by Union College adds $39.6 million to the state economy.
  • Union College generates $1.35 million in state and local taxes (even with nonprofit, tax exempt status).
  • Union College supports roughly 167 jobs per year directly.
  • Indirectly through spending spillovers, Union College adds an additional 348 jobs with a total of $17.4 million in wages and salaries.

Employment data comparisons

  • Union College is in the top 97th percentile of Lancaster County’s employers in terms of jobs and payroll.
  • The number of jobs created by Union is 9.5 times that of the average business establishment in Lancaster County.
  • Union’s annual payroll is 22.6 times that of the average Lancaster business establishment.

Other community impacts

         “Since its beginning in 1891, Union College has been a catalyst for growth in Lincoln and the state,” said President Smith. “The city planners courted the college founders and gave them incentives to build the campus in farmland southeast of the growing city; they knew a college would create a ripple effect of business development and prosperity.”

        In the 115 years since Union was established by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the campus has both benefited from Lincoln and poured its resources back into the community.


  • Athletic facilities—Larson Lifestyle Center, a fitness and aquatic facility, offer memberships and summer children’s swimming programs; 49ers field and the campus gymnasium are used by teams from the YMCA, little league and city league.
  • Seminar and meeting locations—The Ortner Center offers Union Market dining services, conference facilities, 14 guest rooms and an art gallery; other auditorium spaces on campus are used monthly by groups such as the Audubon and genealogical societies.


  • At least 65 percent of Union College employees are active in volunteer service.
  • During Union’s annual community service day each August, more than 650 students and employees volunteer more than 2,500 hours at 50 local service agencies.
  • Many of Union’s more than 50 academic programs incorporate volunteer service into the curriculum.
  • Students organize a wide range of volunteer opportunities each weekend, which result in more than 1,600 hours of volunteer service each school year.

Economic Impact Report (PDF)