By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
It’s not just about the dollars.
A new report pegs the economic impact of Ontario’s universities at $115.8 billion annually, however, in the coming years the importance of these post-secondary institutions will prove to be more about the students they graduate and their innovative thinking.
“More and more as we start thinking about the innovation economy, the knowledge economy, as we think about research, just the types of jobs that are changing as we move forward, we need universities and the entire post-secondary sector, you need all of it to be able to continually move that far forward,” says Lindsay Coolidge, the manager of government and community relations at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT).
Along with preparing students for the jobs of the future, students must also be prepared to think about the issues that are on the horizon.
“We’re about creating people who are thinking about those social and economic issues, but you’ve got to think about them in sometimes different ways, and I think we’re really trying, through the types of programs that we’ve created.”
The latest report, Driving a Prosperous Future: Economic Analysis of the Lasting Impact of Ontario Universities from the Council of Ontario Universities (COU) uses data from Statistics Canada to put a dollar figure on the impact of the province’s 21 universities.
The findings in the report support a 2015 economic analysis commissioned by UOIT regarding their own impact. That report found that UOIT contributes $205 million to Ontario’s gross domestic product each year. This goes along with the nearly 2,000 jobs the university creates across the province, two-thirds of which are in Durham Region and Northumberland County. The report also found that for ever dollar of base funding provided to UOIT, it generates $3.60 of spending impacts across Ontario.
“As students and faculty and staff are out there purchasing good and services, that in turn ripples out into the economy,” Coolidge says, adding it’s a number given context by the number of students and visitors who come to UOIT. “If you think of the fact that UOIT has 10,000 students, while we have a number of the coming from within Durham Region, there is a significant portion that actually comes from outside Durham Region and then we have international students on top of that.”
The report also states universities are responsible for creating a “ripple effect” through the economy and creating 478,000 jobs across the province. The university sector is also responsible for $48.7 billion in income earned by university graduates and $24.7 billion in economic impact as a result of research and benefits to health and technologies.