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Ripple Effect

Tulane’s $3.14 billion impact on Louisiana’s economy and community includes jobs, discoveries, goodwill and more, a new study finds.

This fall, Tulane released a report that reveals its profound economic value to the city, the Greater New Orleans area and the state of Louisiana. The university’s $3.14 billion impact statewide, which directly and indirectly supports over 19,000 jobs, is one of the reasons the report declares Tulane “a force for good.”

Econsult Solutions (ESI) of Philadelphia compiled the report using data, input and guidance provided by the Office of Tulane Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Patrick J. Norton. The report’s overall economic impact includes direct activity attributable to Tulane as well as the spillover effect of that activity.

“Tulane has always been a little bit different in that it’s always been an outward-focused university,” Tulane President Mike Fitts said.

research infographic
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“We’re entering a new stage economically in our relationship with New Orleans,” he added, referring to Tulane’s exponential growth on both the uptown and downtown campuses. “Universities are about intellectual and human capital, and that’s important in this city.”

Fitts presented the report to city leaders and government officials in the fall, detailing Tulane’s contributions to the city and surrounding areas in four categories: operations, capital investments, wage premium and visitor spending.

But the true measure of Tulane’s impact and potential far surpasses dollar figures. The university’s mission of and dedication to education, research and service define its existence and are felt across the region.
In fiscal year 2018, Tulane spent almost $200 million on research and development, an 18 percent increase over 2014. Over $100 million of that funding came from outside the local economy, supporting local jobs.

“We’re adding more research capacity, and that produces a multiplier effect throughout the economy,” Norton said. 

“There’s obviously a number of reasons that a healthy Tulane is good for the community,” said Vice President for Government Affairs Sharon Courtney, who worked with ESI on the report. “One is the job creation piece: The more research dollars we bring in from outside the state, the more good jobs we create. The healthier we are, the more it allows us to use our resources within the community. Being a strong institution allows us to help create wealth within the New Orleans community.”

J. Lowry Curley and Michael J. Moore collaborate in a lab
Research leads to successful startups: J. Lowry Curley (SSE ’12), left, and Michael J. Moore, professor of biomedical engineering, collaborate in a lab. They are co-founders of AxoSim Technologies, which improves pharmaceutical drug development with faster, advanced testing.
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From drawing in research dollars to the state to fostering entrepreneurship and technological innovations, Tulane raises the profile of the city.

The university measures its economic impact every few years, Courtney said, noting the last report was compiled in 2012. 

“What we wanted to do differently this time was to have a deeper dive into our current economic and social impact on the city, state and region and use that as the jumping off point for the plans we have for the future, and how that fits into the future of the city and the state,” she said.

ESI verified Tulane’s data and supplemented it with public data sources, in some cases averaging data over multiple years “to generate an appropriate assessment of typical annual activity,” according to ESI.

Tulane’s operations “support the university’s continuing mission of cultivating the next generation of leaders through scholarship, research and service,” the report’s authors wrote. By employing more than 7,000 people at its various facilities and hospitals, the university is one of the largest employers in the state. Tulane also engages hundreds of local and regional vendors; these operations overall are responsible for more than $2 billion in total output statewide.

When Tulane flourishes, the city and state are strengthened.

Tulane’s operating budget includes building upkeep, student services, hospital expenditures, the university endowment and more, which directly or indirectly affect a variety of industries such as health care, administrative services and real estate. 

Christa Payne is hugged by her co-workers when receiving a President’s Staff Excellence Award
Tulane offers good jobs: Christa Payne, bottom left, feels the love of her co-workers when receiving a President’s Staff Excellence Award in 2018. Each year, Tulane recognizes the contributions to the university of several staff members with these awards.

Tulane is building thriving campuses that attract and motivate talented faculty and students.
A recent notable addition to the uptown campus is The Commons, a 77,000-square-foot transformative space that opened in late summer next to the Lavin-Bernick Center for University Life. Construction of The Commons — at $55 million — is part of the university’s $122 million in total annual capital investment output in New Orleans, which generates 650 direct, indirect and “induced” jobs or positions created as a result of economic impact. On a state level, the annual capital investment output rises to $143 million and 730 direct, indirect and induced jobs.

The Commons is part of the university’s master plan, which prioritizes needs on campus. 

“The areas that the president has been very direct about are Tulane’s investment in the student experience and the academic and research missions. We are very intentional in how we invest in these strategic areas,” said Norton.

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On the uptown campus, other upcoming master plan projects include renovations at the Richardson Building — future home of the Carolyn Barber-Pierre Center for Intercultural Life — and Richardson Memorial Hall — home to the School of Architecture. There’s also construction of a new residential community for students and Steven and Jann Paul Hall, the new home of the School of Science and Engineering. Many of these projects will be under construction concurrently and will finish in 2022.

Paul Hall, a four-story, 76,000-square-foot building that will be located between Stanley Thomas Hall and Flower Hall, will include classrooms, labs and collaborative space for students and faculty. 

Kimberly J. Foster, dean of the School of Science and Engineering, is keenly involved in planning for Paul Hall so that it meets the needs of rapidly changing research.

“I am a strong proponent of building spaces that force intersection and interaction, because they enable the moments where discovery and invention occur,” she said.

With the schools of Medicine, Public Health and Tropical Medicine, and Social Work located downtown, Tulane is contributing to the resurgence of post–post-Katrina New Orleans. Also situated downtown are the ByWater Institute on the banks of the Mississippi River and the A. B. Freeman School of Business Stewart Center for Executive Education on Howard Avenue. And more Tulane expansion downtown is anticipated in the coming years.

An architectural rendering depicts Steven and Jann Paul Hall for the School of Science and Engineering
An architectural rendering depicts Steven and Jann Paul Hall for the School of Science and Engineering, for which construction will begin in 2020.
The Commons, multi-level glass and metal building
The Commons, a $55 million project that opened this fall, is at the heart of the uptown campus. 

While new construction may be an outward symbol of progress, the university’s impact affects Greater New Orleans in other ways as well.

For instance, spending by students and visiting families amounts to $278 million within the state. Besides enrolled students, Tulane hosts thousands of visitors annually, thanks to events such as summer academic programs, campus tours, conferences and board meetings. Other types of spending stem from visitors who come to the city for Tulane athletics events, such as Green Wave football games or the 2020 Women’s Final Four tournament, which the university will co-host in April of next year.

In the 2018–19 academic year, the university hosted 85 athletic events; about 136,500 of the 210,000 total attendees came from outside New Orleans, taking advantage of the city’s shopping, dining and hospitality, for an estimated $26 million output in the city.

Similarly, Tulane hospitals bring in 270,000 individuals per year for inpatient and outpatient visits, nearly all from within 25 miles of a given Tulane facility.

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Tulane contributes to the well-being of the city and state.

The university is responsible for some 750,000 volunteer hours over the past five years, thanks to service learning programs, student organizations like CACTUS (Community Action Council of Tulane University Students) and other individual efforts, many of which benefit multiple agencies across New Orleans. 

“Our engagement with 165 different nonprofit agencies gives them the ability to have additional human resources, and it also builds capacity within their organizations. In addition, the benefit for our students — to show them the world outside of the university — connects them to the city in ways that lead many of them to stay here after graduation,” Courtney said.

Shortly after his arrival to Tulane, School of Social Work Dean Patrick Bordnick established a monthly street-level healthcare fair called Elk Place Health Spot near the busy transit intersection of Canal Street and Elk Place. Now in its third year, it brings together about 20 healthcare organizations such as clinics and municipal agencies who set up walk-in dental and medical screenings for passers-by. The school estimates that they reach between 100–150 individuals a month.

Elk Place Health Spot teaches School of Social Work students to interact with the community while delivering critical services to New Orleanians. Activities like these raise the university’s profile while serving the city’s needs.

Elk Place Health Spot
Downtown at the Elk Place Health Spot, School of Social Work students help deliver healthcare services to passers-by.

The university considers quality of life both on and around the campuses. Neighborhood safety, both uptown and downtown, benefits from Tulane Police Department patrols; last November the department opened a new headquarters downtown near the School of Medicine.

Likewise, the new residential community, which will be built on the former site of Bruff Commons and will feature 800 beds, has the potential to bring in students who would otherwise live off-campus.

“We are incredibly excited about the work we are doing to design a new residential community on the uptown campus. Not only will we be increasing the number of students that we house on campus, but this new community will provide spaces for students to engage with one another, faculty and staff in a number of different ways,” said Tim Lempfert, director of the Tulane Department of Housing and Residence Life. “When complete, the building will include small meeting rooms, seminar rooms, social lounges, kitchenettes and a large, amazing area for gathering, socializing and collaboration. We expect that this project will not only benefit the students living there, but will enhance the overall experience for all students on campus.”

In 2018–19, the university realized its most successful fundraising effort to date, with 73% of the gifts originating in states other than Louisiana. U.S. News and World Report ranked Tulane No. 40 among the country’s top national universities in the latest edition of its Best Colleges rankings. And, Princeton Review named Tulane the No. 1 school in the country for public service.

Tulane’s status as an economic engine, a force for good — and its mission to serve the community — resonate throughout its campuses and create ripple effects felt far beyond.

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