Cal Poly’s contribution to the Central Coast’s economy has reached an impressive $2.6 billion annually, marking an 85% increase from the university’s economic impact in 2014, according to a recent study conducted by the Central Coast economic action coalition, REACH, in partnership with Canadian consulting firm Deloitte.
The study examined Cal Poly’s economic impact in 2022, following up on a previous report from 2014 that estimated the university’s impact at $1.4 billion.
“Cal Poly is a dynamic force on California’s Central Coast, as anyone who has spent time in
the region can attest. Its impact reverberates throughout San Luis Obispo and northern Santa
Barbara counties,” the study states.
The study revealed that Cal Poly employees alone generate $576 million in economic impact, with $403 million attributed to payroll. However, the most significant boost to the regional economy stems from the university’s role in developing a knowledgeable regional workforce, contributing $1.4 billion in human capital.
Student spending also plays a significant role, accounting for $271 million in annual economic impact. Additionally, the university’s capital expenditures, averaging $234 million, contribute to the region’s economic growth. Retired faculty, staff, and local faculty members further enhance the economy by adding another $83 million.
The study indicated that both spending from the university itself and visitors also generate tens of millions of dollars in additional economic impact. However, the analysis also identified areas for improvement and potential growth. Cal Poly’s enrollment has remained steady, fluctuating between 20,000 and 22,000 students since 2014, with the university never surpassing the 22,000 mark due to a lack of housing availability.
The study revealed that rent accounted for 43.1% of all student expenditures in 2022, highlighting an increase from 40% a decade ago. In this regard, the study commended Cal Poly’s recent efforts to construct more on-campus housing, recognizing that alleviating housing pressures for students will enable them to redirect their financial resources towards goods and services, resulting in a positive multiplier effect on the economy.
Furthermore, the study emphasized that Cal Poly’s economic impact will continue to grow as the university expands its enrollment capacity. Predicting a 43% increase in economic impact by 2034, the study estimates that Cal Poly could contribute $3.44 billion to the Central Coast’s economy, contingent upon the university increasing its enrollment capacity to accommodate 25,000 students.
The study also highlighted the significant entrepreneurial impact of Cal Poly students through the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE). These students have launched various businesses, creating over 1,000 jobs in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, with a capital value exceeding $250 million. Moreover, the study found a direct correlation between the level of counseling services provided by CIE and the number of jobs and businesses established by students.
As Cal Poly continues to fuel economic growth and innovation in the Central Coast region, this study serves as a testament to the university’s significant contributions and highlights the potential for even greater impact in the years to come.