Calgary’s post-secondary institutions don’t just provide skilled workers for the economy, they’re good business.

A just released study for Calgary Economic Development puts a dollar figure on the economic impact of Calgary’s seven post-secondary institutions (PSIs) and it totaled $8.6 billion in additional income in the region in 2014-15. That figure includes the operations of the institutions, the impact of research, student spending, visitors spending and, especially, the impact of alumni.

Over a lifetime, the analysis discovered, the economic impact of higher education for the students, the taxpayer and society in Alberta is in excess of $180 billion.

“The impact of post-secondary institutions as economic engines in our city is extraordinary, and is highly underappreciated,” said Mary Moran, President & CEO of Calgary Economic Development. “Higher education’s benefit is that it inspires Calgarians to the innovative thinking that drives our progress as a great place to make a living and a life is immeasurable.”

The study concluded taxpayers benefit from a 17.6 per cent rate of return on investments in Calgary post-secondary institutions. It also determined that for every dollar invested, $3.50 was generated in economic benefits.

“Nearly three-quarters of Mount Royal students come from Calgary and more than 70,000 alumni remain in the city and contribute to the local economy. Given this, it is vital to demonstrate in real dollars how post-secondaries, like Mount Royal, deliver value to Calgary's economy every day," said David Docherty, MRU president.

The following post-secondaries participated in the study:

  • University of Calgary
  • Mount Royal University
  • SAIT
  • St. Mary’s University
  • Ambrose University
  • Bow Valley College
  • Alberta College of Art & Design

In total, the schools have 88,000 students and more than 10,000 full-time employees. 

“This study demonstrates how Bow Valley College is a vital city and region builder that stimulates nearly $600 million in economic activity. Through our operations and the development of a skilled workforce, we create new income in the region, support local jobs, expand the economic base, return revenues to the local and provincial governments, and improve everyone’s quality of life,” explained Laura Jo Gunter, President and CEO.

The technological innovations that make Calgary a centre of excellence in all things energy -- and other key sectors of the economy will be created by a young, highly educated, globally oriented workforce that is Calgary’s greatest resource. Twenty-seven per cent of graduates from Calgary PSIs are from the STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – disciplines critical to the technological advances that generate progress.

“For a century, SAIT has played a critical role in the economic vitality of Calgary," said Dr. David Ross, SAIT President and CEO. "SAIT’s deep connection with industry and our internationally recognized applied education model ensures our graduates are career-ready. They enter the workforce highly-skilled, experienced and able to make a difference from day one.”

The PSIs are a critical element of the innovation and energy cluster that is emerging in Calgary – working in collaboration with businesses and governments – to take on the energy and environmental challenges critical to society in 21st century.

The total impact of research activities at the seven institutions totaled $663.3 million, including $278.6 million in research spending, $50.5 million in start-up companies and $334.2 million in productivity gains.

“The CED report reminds us that as a top comprehensive research university, we research, develop and commercialize innovations that are solving important societal challenges, provide a wide range of opportunities for our students to shape their future and become productive citizens and leaders in a complex world, but also contribute significantly to the local economy,” said Dr. Elizabeth Cannon, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calgary.

BY Stephen Ewart

Manager, Communications & Content

Marketing & Communications

Stephen joined our Communications team in 2016 from the Calgary Herald where he was a columnist on the energy industry. He had previously worked in communications roles with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, Cenovus Energy, Encana and Precision Drilling and in journalism with The Canadian Press and the Telegraph-Journal in New Brunswick.

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