Study Finds Mason Contributes $1.6 Billion to the Economy

By Carrie Lake, BA Communication ’99

Stephen Fuller

What would Northern Virginia be without George Mason University? While the answer to this question is not clear-cut, a new study by School of Public Policy professor Stephen Fuller shows that the university’s total economic impact to the Commonwealth of Virginia in fiscal year 2005 was $1.6 billion—with the Northern Virginia region receiving almost $600 million.

“Mason is a significant force within the Northern Virginia economy as a generator of jobs, a source of consumer spending and investment, and as host to students and visitors whose spending would not have been captured by Northern Virginia businesses in the absence of the university’s existence,” says Fuller.

Fuller, the Dwight Schar Faculty Chair and University Professor and director of the Center for Regional Analysis, presented highlights from the study, “The Impact of George Mason University on the Northern Virginia Economy,” to a group of local government leaders last fall. The study focuses on the economic benefits generated by the university and also highlights Mason as a desirable amenity in the region.

The Value of Immeasurables

Mason’s immeasurable qualities distinguish it from any other institution, the report states.

“The value of the university that cannot be measured likely far exceeds the [monetary] values reported in the study,” Fuller says. For example,

Quantifying the Economic Impact

Not unlike other universities, Mason generates jobs and income and does business with suppliers. Its students buy goods and services from local merchants, and it attracts visitors who in turn contribute to the local economy. Most of these benefits can be measured in dollar terms:

In addition to the annual benefits the Northern Virginia economy receives, the university’s planned capital spending will have a significant impact. The proposed construction-spending program for the 2004–08 period includes $231 million for new construction on the Fairfax, Arlington, and Prince William Campuses. In addition, the George Mason University Foundation is investing $67 million in capital construction at the Arlington Campus. If all this construction occurs as planned, it would generate $430.5 million total economic value to the Northern Virginia economy over the five-year period. It would also support an increase of $62.3 million in new personal earnings accruing to residents of Northern Virginia and generate 4,911 new year-round, full-time equivalent jobs.

About the Study

“When you do an economic analysis you should only count new money—that’s the money we are getting in this region that we wouldn’t have gotten if the university had not been here,” Fuller says.

As a result, student spending by part-time students who were Northern Virginia residents prior to admission to Mason was not included, as this spending would likely have occurred in Northern Virginia in the absence of the university’s existence. Similarly, a substantial share of the spending of full-time undergraduates living at home in Northern Virginia was excluded.