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Case Study Highlights How Growth of Public Universities Benefits Host Cities

UMass Lowell Releases Report on Economic Impact on City of Lowell

By Christine Gillette and Nancy Cicco

LOWELL, Mass. – The growth of public universities can power economic revival in their host cities, according to a new report released by the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

The case study – released Sept. 26 at an annual breakfast for The Lowell Plan, a nonprofit economic development organization – analyzes the investment made by UMass Lowell in its host city in recent years.

Titled “The Economic Effect: How UMass Lowell Benefits the City of Lowell,” the report highlights direct economic benefits to the city resulting from UMass Lowell’s new construction, acquisition and renovation of commercial buildings, public-private partnerships, property leases, purchasing, tax-generating activity, employment and transfer of once tax-exempt properties. It identifies approximately $450,000 in new revenue for the city tied to the recent growth of the university, which has realized an enrollment increase exceeding 40 percent since 2007. Ongoing direct economic benefits include $24.3 million in annual salaries to Lowell residents employed by the university, $3.5 million in financial aid to residents who attend the university, $2.7 million in annual goods and services purchased from Lowell businesses and $1.6 million annually in leased property in Lowell.

Bond-rating agencies Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s recently referenced economic activity at UMass Lowell when upgrading Lowell’s financial outlook.

“This report shows how the transformation and growth of the university translate into real economic benefits for the city,” said UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan.  “UMass Lowell is a vital partner to the city and vice versa, and our relationship could serve as a model for other urban public universities.”

Since Meehan became chancellor in 2007, UMass Lowell has invested more than $600 million in capital projects, including the construction of six new buildings. The report also focuses on three once-failing properties acquired, renovated and repurposed by UMass Lowell – the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center, formerly a commercial hotel; the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell, an arena once owned by the city; and University Crossing, a construction and renovation project on the site of a largely vacant former hospital property. Divestments by the university in the form of two apartment buildings and a mill property have also returned once tax-exempt properties to the city’s tax rolls that will generate more than $600,000 in property taxes annually. 

“The dynamic growth of the University of Massachusetts Lowell provides a case study of strategic and entrepreneurial public investment powering economic revival in an older, urban core,” the UMass Lowell report states.

UMass Lowell is experiencing a period of incredible growth. In addition to a 45 percent increase in enrollment in the last six years, research expenditures have increased 69 percent and the endowment has increased from $37 million to $66.1 million. UMass Lowell’s three-year gain of 25 points in the U.S. News & World Report national universities ranking is greater than all but one other school. ranks the university 10th for return on investment and Forbes lists UMass Lowell among its top 10 “Best Buys” in higher education.

UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its 17,000 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be ready for work, for life and for all the world offers.