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Study: UC Merced Expansion Project Will Pump $700 Million Into Local Economy

December 7, 2023
View from the Pavilion of Academic Walk and Little Lake
The total impact of the Merced 2020 Project is estimated at $696.7 million through 2030.

The Merced 2020 Project, which added 13 facilities to UC Merced’s campus and nearly doubled its square footage, has so far contributed $510.9 million to the regional economy through construction costs alone.

Taking into account staffing, ongoing maintenance, additional students and their post-graduation employment, the total impact of the 2020 Project is estimated at $696.7 million through 2030, or $23.7 million per year, according to a study produced by Lightcast, a global market analytics firm.

“UC Merced has indeed risen far since its earliest days in 2003, when a dedicated, visionary group of eight faculty, along with staff and graduate students, labored at the former Castle Air Force Base,” UC Merced Chancellor Juan Sánchez Muñoz said. “We have amassed a record and reputation truly unparalleled in American higher education — a record of research and teaching, of public service, of social mobility and of economic uplift to our community.”

Lightcast issued a previous report on the annual impact of overall UC Merced operations, looking at the year 2018-2019, before the full realization of the 2020 Project. It found the university’s economic contribution to the San Joaquin Valley to be $514.6 million per year.

Among other findings, Lightcast reported that a student graduating from UC Merced with a bachelor’s degree will earn, on average, $26,900 more each year than the average Valley worker with only a high school diploma.

"UC Merced's 2020 Project is not only expected to expand the San Joaquin Valley economy through the short-term injection of money to construct the 13 new buildings and supporting infrastructure, but also is expected to increasingly grow the regional economy by providing more students with access to quality education and providing regional employers with a skilled and knowledgeable workforce,” said Hannah Ruffridge, an economist and Lightcast’s director of education consulting, who oversaw both studies.

Alyssa Johansen

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