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A university should periodically (e.g. every five years) produce an economic impact report to measure the contribution of the university to its state or regional economy. Most of the information needed to carry out an economic impact analysis is readily available from accounting data routinely assembled by the university's offices of the comptroller and institutional analysis.
One aspect of a university’s economic impact that is not easy to estimate involves the spending of students. Students are unusual consumers, with spending patterns that are not well approximated from information collected in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey. To obtain a reasonable level of accuracy in these estimates, a student spending survey should be administered, perhaps every ten years.
In general, universities should be much more careful in their preparation of impact studies. While more conservative traditional economic impact estimates generally will result from a more careful analysis, a more comprehensive accounting of the net benefits of universities should be undertaken. This broadening of the studies mostly involves documenting the net positive results from enhancing educational attainment and creating knowledge.