The Alumni Effect

    For anyone who ever wondered what their degree was really worth, comes the answer: $12.3 Billion

    By Lisa Cook on November 26, 2012

    For anyone who ever wondered what their degree was really worth, comes the answer

    The University of Alberta’s economic impact on the province is 12.3 billion, according to a recent study out of the Alberta School of Business. And U of A alumni account for a third of that total.

    In case you’re struggling to wrap your mind around all those zeros, that’s about five per cent of Alberta’s gross domestic product or the equivalent of 135 Edmonton Oilers teams.

    “When a university educates a population, it’s the whole region that benefits,” said study co-author Anthony Briggs, an assistant professor in the Alberta School of Business at the University of Alberta.

    While most conversations about the role of a university within a region focus on the cost of the education and direct spending, that’s only part of the equation. In fact, the authors found that the education premium Alberta’s 135,000 U of A alumni brought to the province had an impact of $4.1 billion for the year studied (fiscal year 2009-10).That amount was second only to the impact of research and more than double the economic impact of the institution itself. (See chart, above).

    Or, to return to the hockey comparison, the education premium of U of A alumni alone is equal to 46 Oilers teams (based on figures from the 2009-10 season).

    “The more important conversation is about understanding the value of universities and how differences in the qualities of universities alter their regional economic impact,” wrote Briggs and co-author Jennifer Jennings in the report.

    The report, released in October, is the first of a series of studies Briggs and Jennings are conducting to gain a better understanding of the university’s impact on broader society. Later this year they will release their findings from the alumni survey that appeared in the Spring 2012 issue of New Trail. This will examine the university’s impact on personal well-being, innovation and entrepreneurship, the perpetuation of family enterprise, and social, cultural and environmental initiatives.