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HWS has $200M impact on economy, officials say

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  • Staff Report 

Hobart and William Smith Colleges, a small liberal arts school in Geneva may not pay property taxes as a non-profit, but it has a substantial impact on the region’s economy. The college recently released an independent study examining its economic impact during the 2020-21 assessment period, revealing that its impact totaled more than $200 million.

The study conducted by the Council of Independent Colleges and Universities indicates that independent colleges and universities in New York state contributed an estimated $95 billion to the state’s economy in 2020-21. The study further reveals that Hobart and William Smith’s nearly $183 million institutional impact includes spending on research, construction, instruction, technology, salaries, and other operating expenses, as well as an $18.2 million student and visitor impact, including discretionary spending by students and expenditures by campus visitors.

In addition to these impacts, the Colleges claim that students contribute over 80,000 hours of community service and engagement annually in Geneva and the Finger Lakes region, generating approximately $110,000 in fundraising efforts directed to non-profit organizations.

“Hobart and William Smith enjoy a strong partnership with the City of Geneva and communities in the Finger Lakes region, and we are committed to investing in the people and places that have been our host and home for 200 years,” said President Mark Gearan in a news release. “I look forward to building on the relationships that have produced so many extraordinary opportunities for our campus and our neighbors.”

The Colleges’ economic impact includes spending on research and development, construction, technology, salaries, and other operating expenses, as well as the impact of spending by students and visitors in the community. The college does not pay property taxes as a non-profit, but it does make annual contributions to the city to help pay for the cost of government services, such as police and fire.

In late 2019, the City Council approved a 10-year pact with HWS that provides the city nearly $2.4 million over ten years, with $25,000 of each yearly payment earmarked for fire-protection costs. While some criticized the agreement for providing too little money to a cash-strapped city struggling to pay for expensive public safety services, then-city manager Sage Gerling noted that the agreement is a significant contribution to the city’s finances.