Economic value study: Appalachian offers 15.9 percent ROI for taxpayers

Spend a dollar on education at Appalachian State University and that dollar will yield another $6.40 in benefits to taxpayers, or a 15.9 percent return on investment, according to an economic impact value of higher education conducted by the Idaho-based company Economic Modeling Specialists International (EMSI) for the University of North Carolina system.

The EMSI report, released in February 2015 by UNC General Administration, estimated new or added economic activity in 2012-13. The report showed the $355.3 million in payroll and operations spending of Appalachian – together with construction spending and the spending of its students, visitors, and alumni – created a total impact of $1.7 billion in economic value to the state.

“In fiscal year 2012-13, the state and local taxpayers invested $149.7 million in Appalachian,” Chancellor Sheri N. Everts told members of the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce March 19.

“The return on this investment is added tax revenue stemming from students’ higher lifetime incomes and the increased output of businesses, for a net benefit to North Carolina taxpayers in the amount of $757.8 million,” she said.

“In other words, for every one dollar invested, the taxpayer return is a benefit of $6.40. The average annual return on investment is 15.9 percent.  These numbers clearly illustrate that higher education in North Carolina, and Appalachian in particular, is a wise investment,” Everts said.

In addition to the benefit to taxpayers, every $1 spent on education at Appalachian yields $3.70 for students in terms of future income and $13.30 for society in terms of state income and social savings for as long as the 2012-13 students remain active in the state workforce.

benefits value for every $1 spent on education at Appstate

Other Appalachian data from the report show that:

University operations

  • Payroll and benefits paid to Appalachian’s 3,718 full-time and part-time employees in 2012-13 totaled $215.2 million, which had a net impact of $251.1 million in new income for the state as employees purchased goods and services throughout the state.
  • Spending on Appalachian’s day-to-day operations and research totaled $140.1 million.
  • Construction projects on campus during 2012-13 contributed $3.5 million.
  • Research funds spent on payroll, equipment purchases and supplies during this period generated $3 million in additional state income.


  • Out-of-state students enrolled at the university during the study, approximately 9 percent of the total enrollment, added approximately $18 million in income to the state’s economy in terms of rent, groceries, transportation and other non-academic expenditures.

Alumni and Visitors

  • The accumulated contribution of Appalachian’s alumni currently employed in North Carolina totaled $1.4 billion in added income to the state. That is equivalent to creating 23,372 jobs.
  • Spending by out-of-state visitors coming to Appalachian added another $4.1 million to the local and state economy.

The report also stated that as a whole, the University of North Carolina system created $27.9 billion in added state income in 2012-13, which was equivalent to more than 426,000 jobs.

Read the full report