APU Impact: A Local, Regional, and Statewide Look

by Cynndie Hoff

Today, mission, purpose, and outcomes mark the value and worth of an institution of higher education. At Azusa Pacific University, its people provide this mark of distinction.

Through 119 years of keeping God First, APU has earned its reputation for cultivating difference makers by encouraging people to pursue their callings, overcoming challenges, and changing lives. And that signature commitment extends well beyond campus boundaries. In countless ways, measurable and immeasurable, APU impacts its immediate neighbors in the city of Azusa, the surrounding San Gabriel Valley, the Southern California region, and the entire state.

Azusa Pacific’s most tangible contributions can be seen in its significant economic impact—$1.25 billion throughout the state—which directly enhances the quality of life for thousands of people. While it is not unusual for an institution of APU’s size and scope to influence the economy, APU goes beyond many of its counterparts by operating in ways that embody selfless service to its neighbors. This impact had not been formally measured—until now.

To quantify the benefits of Christian higher education, America’s Christian Credit Union (ACCU) provided the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU) with $100,000 to conduct research on the economic impact of faith-based colleges and universities at the national level, statewide, and the institutional level, beginning with Azusa Pacific University. “At ACCU, we strive to play a constructive role in mission-aligned outreach and expanding the Kingdom,” said ACCU President/CEO Mendell Thompson. “We recognize and support the very significant role that God-honoring institutions like Azusa Pacific University play. We are pleased to note that the survey results confirm our recognition of APU’s positive effect in building up the community as it prepares future leaders to do good work locally, statewide, and nationwide.”

Helping to accomplish that, Philadelphia-based Econsult Solutions, Inc. (ESI) conducted an independent, comprehensive study looking at data from 2014-16 to analyze Azusa Pacific’s economic activity. According to ESI’s August 2017 Economic Impact Report, Azusa Pacific University, which serves more than 10,000 students each year and employs more than 1,400 faculty and staff members, benefits every region of the state fiscally, academically, and socially in ways that can be empirically measured. “This economic impact report demonstrates that Azusa Pacific University, the largest Christian university in California, plays a key role in the state’s Education Master Plan for Higher Education, graduating difference makers who positively impact their communities as good neighbors and employees,” said President Jon R. Wallace, DBA. “We draw the majority of our students from local high schools and community colleges within the San Gabriel Valley and surrounding counties, especially Los Angeles, strengthening our area economy in part by producing skilled graduates who join the workforce in key sectors like education, nursing, and mental health services, among others.”

Azusa Pacific’s most tangible contributions can be seen in its significant economic impact—$1.25 billion throughout the state—which directly enhances the quality of life for thousands of people.

Operations

Providing transformational higher education requires a visionary strategy, a sound business plan, and a network of local and regional partners to support the day-to-day operations of the university. APU stands as one of the area’s top purchasers of goods and services, operating with an annual budget exceeding $210 million. Of that, $145 million (about two-thirds) covers wages, salaries, and benefits for the university’s employees. Directly impacting local commerce, this spending creates a ripple effect, increasing economic activity and employment throughout the communities APU touches. ESI revealed that each year, APU operations produce $157.8 million in total economic impact within the city of Azusa, $252.9 million within the San Gabriel Valley, $347.9 million within Los Angeles County, $417.3 million within Southern California, and $427.9 million within the state of California.

While direct employment accounts for 52 percent of that, other sectors benefit as well, including health care, real estate, retail, administrative services, the food industry, and more. This economic activity also means that APU, though a nonprofit, actually generates taxes as it contributes to the growth and prosperity of the regions it influences. ESI estimates that APU’s operations generate nearly $14 million in income, sales, and business tax revenues in California.

Capital Investments

$4.7 million Azusa

$5.8 million San Gabriel Valley

$7.6 million Los Angeles County

$8.7 million Southern California

$9 million California

Capital Investments

Some of Azusa Pacific’s most tangible contributions to economic growth spring from its significant capital investments, such as the state-of-the-art, $54 million, 72,000-square-foot Segerstrom Science Center on West Campus, which is just one of many APU expansions and improvements over the years. While capital investments enhance the campus and attract more scholars, they also generate jobs, purchases, and tax revenue. According to ESI, each year, APU’s projects, including new building, equipment, technology, renovations, and maintenance, average $9 million, support 40 jobs, and generate $231,000 in tax revenue. Like the operating budget, capital investments have a multiplier effect that boosts productivity and income throughout the state, generating $4.7 million within the city of Azusa, $5.8 million in the San Gabriel Valley, $7.6 million in Los Angeles County, $8.7 million in Southern California, and $9 million in the state of California.

These expenditures represent more than the sum of their total—they illustrate the lived-out mission to be good neighbors. From job opportunities to the accessibility of educational resources, from the research facilities to the simple beauty of the space and place, APU provides its immediate and surrounding communities with an enriching environment where they can learn and grow.

Ancillary Spending

As students live, study, and work during their college years, they are avid consumers. Dorm rooms need bedding, job interviews require business attire, and diligent scholars need to take study breaks at local restaurants, attend concerts, and go to movies. College towns come with built-in buyers who boost the economic activity throughout the city and beyond. And when their family and friends visit, the effect expands exponentially.

In Azusa, ESI found that APU “students alone are responsible for about $43 million in spending, 82 percent of which is captured within the state.” When considering the ripple effect of this ancillary spending, ESI estimates “$56 million in economic impact within the state of California, supporting approximately 480 jobs and generating $1.6 million in state taxes.” These figures represent student spending and also the spending of more than 84,000 visitors who come to campus throughout the year. This includes family members, prospective students and their families, alumni, and conference/event attendees. The breakdown of this category of spending shows that $25.2 million occurs within the city of Azusa, $27.5 million within the San Gabriel Valley, $28.7 million within Los Angeles County, and $31.5 million within California. The bulk of this spending goes to the retail, hotel, and food services industries, and the remainder goes to transportation and warehousing, real estate, and administration services, among other sectors. Clearly, APU is good for business—it triggers a chain reaction of economic prosperity.

Wage Premiums

A college degree means higher earning potential. Known in economics as the wage premium (the higher wages earned by those with higher levels of education), this phenomenon significantly increases the fiscal power of cities and regions with more college graduates. According to ESI, “federal data sources estimate that wage premiums [or additional household income] attributable to increased educational attainment for APU alumni are $8,565 for an associate’s, $20,103 for a bachelor’s, and $23,992 for advanced degrees.” This translates to a significant return on investment for alumni and a benefit for the city of Azusa, given the growing number of APU alumni who remain in the area and contribute significantly to the earning potential of the local workforce. And higher earning potential means higher purchasing power for alumni to buy homes, consume goods and services, pay taxes, and pour back into the regional economy.

Of the APU alumni employed in the state, 880 live within the city of Azusa, 6,740 live in the broader San Gabriel Valley, another 5,640 live in Los Angeles County, an additional 17,640 live in Southern California beyond L.A. County, and 3,340 live in the remainder of the state of California outside of the Southern California region. ESI reports, “the wage premium conferred on APU alumni produces $757 million in economic impact per year within the state of California economy and generates almost $21 million in tax revenues for the state of California government.” While APU graduates directly impact their communities through earning and spending, they also do so indirectly by creating jobs and attracting human and financial resources.

Ancillary Spending

$25.2 million Azusa

$27.5 million San Gabriel Valley

$28.7 million Los Angeles County

$31.5 million California

Wage Premiums

$757 million Alumni within California

$21 million California tax revenues

Social Impact

While the research clearly demonstrates APU’s prominent role in the economic health of its city, region, and state, its greatest asset and value to society remains its people. Wallace describes the quintessential APU graduate as someone others want to call colleague, neighbor, and friend. He contends that a college degree means little without hearts that care and hands that serve. In fact, that aspect undergirds every decision and action at APU and aligns with the university’s Four Cornerstones: Christ, Scholarship, Community, and Service. Long before it was popular to do community service in college, Azusa Pacific students devoted massive hours to helping their neighbors through volunteer work and service-learning courses, among other initiatives. In fact, all full-time undergraduate students must complete a minimum of 120 service hours to graduate, but many go way beyond that requirement.

Through the Office of Community Advancement Programs, students help strengthen relations between the university and the community and earn Federal Work Study funding through programs such as Our Neighborhood Homework House, a nonprofit organization that provides learning resources for at-risk children and their families. The Center for Student Action organizes local and global mission trips, including the Mexico Outreach program, which has mobilized more than 200,000 students and local churches to serve their neighbors south of the border. The Center for Academic Service-Learning facilitates a strong connection between classroom learning and real-world service, as the more than 180 service-learning courses at APU help integrate a culture of service into every discipline so students learn the habit of helping others. Math majors team up with nursing students and artists join athletes as they go out into the community to clean up yards, give health screenings, assist with homework, befriend the elderly, and feed the homeless. Azusa Pacific deepens these connections by reaching out to young scholars in the area and making college more than a dream, opening up education opportunities for local ethnic minorities, first-generation college students, and low-income households through groundbreaking partnerships with area school districts. More than 16 area districts (a list that grows continually) have joined with APU in creating new pathways to college, including guaranteed admission for students who meet requirements, application fee waivers and help with the process, and a renewable $10,000 scholarship. APU also offers merit-based scholarships for high-achieving freshmen and transfers, degree completion programs for working professionals, online degrees for nontraditional students, and GI Bill education benefits for veterans.

Qualitatively and quantitatively, the university consistently demonstrates significant value to stakeholders near and far, as verified by the comprehensive ESI report. “This important research confirms what we’ve known for a long time: institutions of Christian higher education like Azusa Pacific University have tremendous economic, educational, and social impact in their communities,” said Shirley Hoogstra, JD, president of the CCCU. “Not only do Christian colleges and universities provide world-class, faith-rooted educational experiences for their students, they provide vital support to their local communities, their states, and the country.” Students, parents, and professionals seeking a values-driven education find that Azusa Pacific delivers a healthy return on investment in terms of societal impact and wage premiums that translate to higher lifetime income. Further, this tax-exempt institution generates taxes and significantly contributes to the economy through robust operations, capital investments, and spending. This affirmation of Azusa Pacific’s 119-year promise to keep God First and remain devoted to Christ, Scholarship, Community, and Service bolsters the university’s resolve to continue innovating, discipling, seeking Truth, and sending out difference makers.

Adapted from “Difference Makers: The Economic and Societal Impacts of Azusa Pacific University” report produced by Econsult Solutions, Inc. For complete report and information about ESI’s methodology, visit apu.edu/about/economic-impact.

16+ area school districts have joined with APU in creating new pathways to college, including guaranteed admission for students who meet requirements, application fee waivers and help with the process, and a renewable $10,000 scholarship

Cynndie Hoff is a freelance writer and editor living in Walnut, California. ceh.hoff@gmail.com