SEMO is making a difference in the state, local economy

Southeast Missouri State University president Carlos Vargas recently presented at the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce's First Friday Coffee about a study showing the economic impact the university makes on the state.

According to the study, conducted by international labor market analytics firm Emsi, SEMO added nearly $1 billion to the state's economy and supported more than 13,000 jobs in the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

The analysis took into account how much Southeast spends on operations and construction on an annual basis, the impact of students on the local economy, the impact of visitors to the university and their spending and the impact of alumni employed in the state.

In total, Southeast contributes about $904 million to the state economy. Of that total, $14 million is spent by students. The alumni workforce portion totaled $440.6 million.

"The results are important because they show Southeast Missouri State is an engine for economic growth in Missouri," Vargas later said in a statement issued by the university. "We are proud to help prepare our region's workforce. Having data that show Southeast creates a significant positive impact on the business community and generates a return on investment to those who invest in us means we are influencing both the lives of our students as well as the state economy."

The study also looked at the value students receive after graduation in earnings. According to numbers shared by the university, SEMO graduates earn about $30,000 more annually than those with a high school diploma and about $20,000 more than someone with an associate degree.

It's good that Southeast did this study. We particularly like to see the local economic impact of student spending. Anecdotal evidence and older university studies indicate Cape Girardeau and surrounding areas see an economic boost from student spending patterns. But having regular studies to update the numbers is good for local businesses and prospective developers to see.

Also of note from the First Friday Coffee, Vargas said competition for students is high. But after a decline in international student population in recent years, Southeast is starting to see the trend increase. He said international student enrollment is up 49% from last year. That's encouraging.

The economic benefits of being in a university town are only part of the equation. Southeast Missouri State University adds a lot of value to the area, bringing people to our community who otherwise wouldn't be here and providing unique experiences ranging from arts and culture to Division I athletics. Nevertheless, the economic engine of Southeast Missouri State is important for our community and the students who will soon graduate and head into the marketplace.