The first study to measure the overall economic impact of college and university conferences and events shows that the industry contributes $1.5 billion annually to the national economy.
The study was a cooperative venture between the Association of Collegiate Conference and Events Directors-International in Fort Collins, Colo. (which just recently added the word "collegiate" to its name), and Appalachian State and Utah State universities. Data was collected from about 415 ACCED-I members, and 10,000 collegiate program attendees across the Untied States and Canada, according to the methodology notes.
"Our members have been saying for a long time that they know they contribute, both to campuses and local economies, but they needed numbers to back up the data," says Jill Lancaster, ACCED-I executive director.
Lancaster is not surprised by the high figure. In fact, she says, the number is conservative, because only ACCED-I members were surveyed.
"I think you could probably at least increase [the figure] by half," Lancaster asserts. "There are about 3,000 colleges and universities in the U.S. Probably a good 1,500 are doing some sort of conferencing and event management."
The economic impact study will help campus meeting organizers to better market themselves, Lancaster believes. At ACCED-I's March annual meeting this year, a seminar instructed members on how to use the study results to bolster their public relations efforts with their local convention and visitors bureaus.
On a national level, Lancaster says it's crucial to get the message across to college administrators that their events department can be revenue centers with a lot of potential for development.
"Often, conference departments at universities and colleges are auxiliary, and are not necessarily a core [part] of the institution's mission," Lancaster says. "But, dollars and cents talk. Higher education institutions are struggling [for money]. [Events departments] can help out."