Elon University’s annual economic impact in North Carolina is $695 million, sustaining 7,400 jobs

A new study documents Elon’s crucial role in the regional and local economies, especially during the pandemic.

Elon University generates $695 million in annual economic impact, sustaining more than 7,400 jobs while producing $34.6 million in tax revenue in the state of North Carolina. Those are among the findings of a new economic impact study conducted by Tripp Umbach, an industry-leading consulting firm specializing in economic impact analysis for healthcare organizations, universities and academic medical centers.

The study analyzed Elon operations for fiscal year 2020 (June 1, 2019 through May 31, 2020), along with expanded data that measured the university’s activities in summer and fall 2020 related to the pandemic. The researchers called Elon “a driving force in the economic success of the local community,” and said, “the breadth and depth of services at Elon have a far reach that impacts not only citizens of Alamance County and Guilford County, but also across North Carolina and the globe.”

The last Elon economic impact study was conducted in 2004, finding the university’s total impact was $243 million. “This new study quantifies Elon’s substantial growth and contributions to our regional economy during the past 16 years,” said President Connie Ledoux Book. “Tripp Umbach has used a highly respected and conservative model to provide an accurate picture of the important role Elon plays in the economy and the quality of life in Alamance and Guilford counties and across the state. This study is a testament to the hard work of the Elon community and the strong regional partnerships we have built in developing a nationally renowned university.”

Study highlights

North Carolina impact

  • Elon annually generates $695 million in overall economic activity in North Carolina. This includes $215 million in direct expenditures by the university and its students, faculty, staff and visitors along with $480 million in indirect or induced spending as businesses and individuals re-spend this money within the state.
  • Elon supports more than 7,400 jobs in North Carolina. Elon directly employed nearly 2,700 people during fiscal year 2020, with more than 4,700 indirect jobs generated in a wide variety of sectors, including construction, business and professional services, restaurants and hotels, information technology and security.

Alamance County impact

  • Elon annually generates $372 million in annual economic impact in Alamance County. This includes direct expenditures by the university and its students, faculty, staff and visitors of $88 million along with $284 million in indirect or induced spending as businesses and individuals re-spend this money within the county.
  • One out of every 10 jobs in Alamance County is attributable to Elon University. The 5,700 full- and part-time jobs generated by the university in the county include nearly 1,800 Alamance County residents directly employed by Elon along with more than 3,900 jobs in the county due to the presence of Elon.
  • Nearly 137,000 people visited Elon’s campus in fiscal year 2020 for admissions events, athletics events, academic seminars, convocations and student life events. These visitors generated more than $133 million in economic impact.

Guilford County impact
(including operations of Elon University School of Law, which is located in downtown Greensboro)

  • Elon generates $126 million in annual economic impact in Guilford County. This includes direct expenditures by the university and its students, faculty, staff and visitors of $69 million along $57 million in indirect or induced spending as businesses and individuals re-spend this money within the county.
  • More than 900 jobs are generated by Elon in Guilford County, including 510 Guilford County residents directly employed by Elon along with about 400 additional jobs in the county due to the presence of Elon.

The impact of the pandemic

Tripp Umbach began its economic impact study just prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, using data from the fiscal year that began June 1, 2019. At Elon’s request, the firm produced supplemental figures to measure the economic impact of the university’s adjusted operations from spring 2020 through the end of the calendar year.

Noting that Elon significantly increased spending to create a healthy and safe campus environment and maintain in-person learning for Fall Semester 2020, Tripp Umbach estimates that COVID-19 operations generated more than $20 million in additional economic activity, including $11.3 million in direct impact and $8.9 million in indirect impact. This additional activity sustained 158 additional jobs and generated nearly $1 million in governmental revenue throughout the region.

Elon supported local businesses by increased spending on screening and testing, health services, cleaning supplies and protective equipment, technology, food services, equipment and rentals and additional lodging. For example, Elon contracted with several local hotels to house students who were undergoing isolation or quarantine – a critical support for those businesses when travel and room occupancy was severely restricted.

According to the report, “Elon proved to be an important economic engine during a year when visitation and spending in the community were at record lows.”

Other findings

Government revenue impact

Due to operational spending by the university, jobs supported by Elon and visitor spending in the region, Elon has a major impact on state and local government revenues. Direct and indirect tax payments in Alamance County total $18.8 million, with $5.2 million generated in Guilford County.

Elon alumni impact

  • The more than 36,000 living Elon University alumni across the country will generate a combined economic impact of $8.6 billion throughout their careers.
  • Nearly 13,500 Elon alumni live and work in North Carolina (about 37 percent of the total alumni body) and will generate an estimated $3.4 billion in economic impact throughout their careers. This is an additional economic value that is not calculated in the overall impact of the university.
  • Total career economic impact by Elon alumni includes $507 million in Alamance County, $526 million in Wake County, $452 million in Guilford County, $393 million in Mecklenburg County, $169 million in Durham County, $139 million in Forsyth County and $108 million in Orange County.

Community impact

The impact of Elon University goes far beyond economic data. Through partnerships across the region, Elon greatly enhances K-12 education, civic and community organizations and churches, the arts and the overall quality of life.

Tripp Umbach estimates that Elon employees and students annually generate nearly $6 million in charitable donations and volunteer services across North Carolina. During a typical fiscal year, more than 3,200 students volunteer their time for community service, with more than 240 clubs and organizations participating in more than 100,000 community service hours.

A few examples of Elon’s community outreach include the extensive service operations of the Kernodle Center for Civic Life; the Elon Academy and the “It Takes a Village” Project partnerships with the Alamance-Burlington School System; the Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic, the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Clinic and the Elon Law Emergency Legal Services Program of Elon University School of Law; the Elon Year-of-Service Graduate Fellows program; and the Health Outreach Program (Hope Clinic) of the School of Health Sciences.

About Tripp Umbach

Founded in 1990, Tripp Umbach has a rich history rooted in advanced quantitative methods, community assessment, economic impact assessment, and economic development. The firm is credited with pioneering economic impact assessment for colleges and universities and was the first private consulting firm to complete Community Health Needs Assessments (CHNA) for hospitals and health systems.

Beginning with the completion of the nation’s first higher education economic impact study for Washington & Jefferson College in the late 1980s, Tripp Umbach has grown to be the gold standard for college and university impact studies and has completed studies for hundreds of leading universities throughout the United States and globally. With more than 1,000 clients throughout the United States and Canada, Tripp Umbach is a leading provider of community health needs assessments, economic impact studies, feasibility studies, economic development, and strategic planning, all with the philosophy of turning ideas into action to make the world a better place.

Learn more

A summary of the Tripp Umbach report, titled “The Economic and Community Impacts of Elon University,” can be downloaded in PDF format at www.elon.edu/u/about/elon-at-a-glance/elons-economic-impact/. The summary includes additional figures, study methodology and other information about Elon’s contributions to the region.