Union’s economic impact is nearly $400 million

Publication Date

Union delivered $398.3 million to the regional economy in 2019, according to a new report shared by the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities (CICU).

This included an estimated $185.5 million in direct spending by the College and $22.3 million generated by its 2,200 students and thousands of visitors, according to the analysis done by the Center for Governmental Research. The center conducted the statewide study for the CICU.

A view of downtown Schenectady

Union students and staff frequent downtown Schenectady businesses.

The report examined several primary areas of spending, including institutional impact (research, construction, instruction, salaries and spillover spending), and student and visitor spending.

With 860 employees and an annual payroll of nearly $58 million, Union is among the largest employers in the region. The College is also a major purchaser of goods and services in the community, as well as a source of vital construction and service contracts.

The study estimated that Union was responsible for 2,510 jobs from both direct and indirect employment through construction and other activities.

Recent major projects included the $100 million Integrated Science and Engineering complex, the Williams Center for Campus and Community Safety, and the Crew Training Facility in the Alumni Gymnasium.

Union also generated an estimated $9.4 million in personal income tax revenue, and $2.1 million in state and local tax revenue.

The College’s visitors come to campus each year for admissions tours, concerts, conferences, reunions, homecoming, exhibits, and sporting and other events. Many visitors are from out-of-town and stay in area hotels, dine in local restaurants and patronize local retail businesses.

“Union College students are a regular and very visible part of the downtown Schenectady community,” said Jim Salengo, executive director of the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corporation. “The shopping, dining and services located just steps from Union’s campus are increasingly attractive to students and, in turn, they have become some of our businesses’ most faithful customers.”

He added, “This loyalty has been especially important over the past year with the pandemic, when every dollar earned has truly helped keep our businesses afloat.”

Union has been recognized nationally for its positive contributions to the city of Schenectady, including real dollars invested through its foundations and annual budgets, and student and faculty involvement in community service.

Union is among the 100-plus private, not-for-profit colleges and universities that collectively generated $$97.6 billion in economic activity for New York state in 2019, an increase of 10 percent since 2017.

While the report highlighted the schools’ economic impact as of 2019, the latest data available, it acknowledged the effect the pandemic has had over the past year. The CICU estimates its schools lost $3.2 billion through January 2021. The losses stem from diminished enrollment, lost tuition and auxiliary revenue, room and board refunds, and pandemic-related expenses.

CICU is a statewide association representing the public policy interests of the chief executives of more than 100 independent colleges and universities in New York State.