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Think the only thing college kids buy is beer? Think again

WORTHINGTON -- In a recent study, it was determined that Minnesota West Community and Technical colleges generates an annual economic impact of $120 million.

"We're always proud of the contributions we make," Minnesota West president Richard Shrubb said. "Especially in our towns in rural southwest Minnesota are small enough that the college presence we have in each one of the towns is a substantial part of the income and purchasing of income that the towns can get. Here in Worthington, it is probably the biggest town that we have, but still the campus there is a major part of the Worthington economy."

The total direct impact of MW in 2011 was $91 million while the indirect impact was $29 million. That means for every $100 produced in the area, the college is directly or indirectly related to $1.60. The college generates about $7.8 million in tax revenues for state and local government each year.

Wilder Research, based in St. Paul, conducted the study, which was part of a larger one for the entire Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.

In comparison, Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, a four-year college, has an economic impact of $141 million. Fellow junior college, Ridgewater, based in Willmar, had an impact of $90 million. Riverland, based in Austin, had an impact of $70 million. Rochester Community and Technical College, one of the larger two-year schools, had an impact of $165 million.

According to the study, the entire MnSCU system has 24 two-year colleges and seven state universities. For the entire 31 institutions, the economic impact was $8.3 billion, which is 2.8 percent of Minnesota's gross regional product. The direct impact was $5 billion, while indirect impact was $3.3 billion. In total, the MnSCU system generated an estimated 80,856 jobs in the state in 2011.

Locally, Minnesota West has campuses in Canby, Granite Falls, Jackson, Pipestone and Worthington along with learning centers in Fairmont, Redwood Falls, Marshall and Luverne.

Through those centers, the college awarded 355 associate degrees and 774 diplomas and certificates in 2011.

During that same year, Minnesota West generated 1,571 jobs.

"We hire a lot of full and part-time people, and we also hire a lot of contractors," Shrubb said. "We try to shop local in each of our towns as much as we possibly can. I wasn't surprised at all by that number."

The number is 1,322 direct jobs and 249 indirect jobs that include vendors, contractors and businesses.

However, the college adds many graduates to the workforce each year.

"We're not only building the workforce with our outright expenditures, but we're building workforce also with our training graduates, most of who stay here in southwest Minnesota," Shrubb said. "Liberal arts colleges tend to not have people who stay in the area, but community colleges like Minnesota West have graduates who tend to stay in the area."

Shrubb believes the type of programs offered lead graduates to stay in southwest Minnesota.

"We are very much about workforce and skills that are immediately useful to people and to businesses as well," he said. "People who are committed to remain in an area and need a skill to work there are going to come to a college like Minnesota West.

"We graduate hundreds of people in health care and dozens of people in law enforcement," Shrubb continued. "Not only are we giving people usable skills, but we're also providing education and the types of services that are good for the whole region. It would be impossible to live in southwest Minnesota and not be around our graduates every day."

Daily Globe Community Content Coordinator Aaron Hagen may be reached at 376-7323.