Coming from a major state university in Florida, I had not given much thought to the benefits states receive from private higher education institutions. However, being the president of Southwestern Adventist University for the past three years, and being on the board of directors of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas (ICUT) for the past two years, I realize that private higher education institutions are a great benefit to the state and to the communities they serve. ICUT consists of 37 independent, nonprofit, regionally-accredited colleges and universities of which Southwestern Adventist University is one.
The economic impact to Texas and to the communities in which these institutions exist is tremendous. ICUT institutions spend $3.4 billion in their local communities to provide education to their students, and they employ approximately 27,000 people. As independent institutions spend funds to educate Texas students, they contribute $18.5 billion annually to the Texas economy.
Seventeen percent of the students enrolled in all four-year institutions of higher education in Texas are enrolled at the ICUT schools. Of the 123,000 students who attend ICUT schools, the cost to taxpayers is only about $668/student as compared to $7,000/student enrolled at a state university. ICUT schools are providing the great state of Texas with an educated workforce that enhances the state’s economy at little cost to the state.
There is also a significant impact in the local communities. Near Christian colleges and universities, there are commonly certain concentrations of families who choose to live nearby. For example, near Texas Lutheran University in Guadalupe County, there are many evangelical Lutherans and near Abilene Christian University in Taylor County, there are many members from the Church of Christ. Similarly, there has been a long-standing and growing concentration of Seventh-day Adventist Christians living near Southwestern Adventist University with its roots dating back to 1893.
Southwestern Adventist University and the Adventist concentration is making a significant impact on the local economy. A study was conducted by a professional firm 10 years ago to determine the impact of Southwestern Adventist University and the Adventist concentrations on the Cleburne and Keene economies and on Johnson County. At that time, the University and the Adventist concentration contributed $114 million to the Cleburne and Keene economies. One of every $9 of household income received in the area was a result of the University’s presence. In Johnson County, the contribution was nearly $175 million.
Not only is Southwestern Adventist University making an excellent contribution in educating students for the future, the University is making a sizable economic contribution to Keene, Cleburne, and all of Johnson County.
Southwestern Adventist University is proud to be a part of this community!!
Ken Shaw, Ed.D., This article is an opinion piece written for the Cleburne Times Review.