November 10, 2014

TRUSTEE VIEWPOINT: Cornell’s Community Impact

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In fiscal year 2013, Cornell University provided 20,179 jobs in New York State, added $3.2 billion to the New York State economy and helped attract $411 million in student and visitor spending to Tompkins County. Furthermore, Cornell contributed $10.7 million in taxes, fees and voluntary contributions to Tompkins County through the local government and community institutions. These are just a few of the highlights from Cornell’s recently-released comprehensive study of the University’s economic impact on New York State in fiscal year 2013.

Contrary to the mutterings of many students, Cornell University and the city of Ithaca have a very integrated and symbiotic relationship. The Economic Impact report provides substantial data that underscore the strength of Cornell’s relationship with the community.

Cornell was founded as New York State’s land-grant institution, creating a public-private institution unique among our peer institutions. Community engagement is literally written into our charter. The Cornell Cooperative Extension is a major means through which Cornell fulfills its land-grant mission, employing around 2,500 people to translate Cornell’s research into county and statewide programs and resources, to the benefit of the New York State community. CCE boasts 1.1 million volunteer hours for its programs in fiscal year 2013.

Cornell owns and maintains roads, sidewalks, bridges, the vast Cornell Plantations, cooling facilities and water and sewer infrastructure, which the Ithaca community enjoys alongside Cornell students, faculty and staff. Specifically, Cornell has a fascinating and innovative Lake Source Cooling facility, which uses cold water from Cayuga Lake to provide air-conditioning to Cornell’s campus and to Ithaca high school.

Cornell employs 20,179 individuals in New York State, and 60 percent of the University’s jobs are located in Tompkins County. These community-based employees enjoy wages and benefits that have helped Cornell earn a high ranking as one of the best employers in the country by the Chronicle of Higher Education, Working Mother magazine, AARP and other groups. The payroll from the Ithaca campus alone exceeded $800 million in fiscal year 2013.

Cornell students are also active members of the Ithaca community. Over 50 percent of Cornell undergraduates and 85 percent of graduate and professional students live off-campus, and spend around $203 million on rent and personal expenses.

Cornell pays taxes. In fact, Cornell pays the third highest property taxes in Tompkins County. Cornell also made voluntary cash contributions and transit subsidies of $5.6 million in fiscal year 2013, and provides voluntary support to the community through other means, such as the aforementioned Lake Source Cooling system.

There are more than 245,000 Cornell alumni, and 38 percent of the 2013 class from the Ithaca campus remained in New York State upon graduation, enhancing the state’s economy through personal and professional activities. In fact, 17 percent of 2013 Ithaca graduates remained in Tompkins County, a figure that has doubled since 2007.

As an Ithaca-based trustee, I am a member of the Trustee Community Communications Committee, which is chaired by the most devoted Ithaca community member I know — Ezra Cornell. This committee meets several times throughout the year to discuss upcoming community projects and events, encourage trustee participation with the city of Ithaca and facilitate communications between Cornell and the community. Those involved with this committee have impressed me with their devotion to Cornell and the community, the level of detail with which they inform themselves of community news, and the thoughtfulness with which they approach issues.

I grew up in an Ivy League college town, attended college in a different city that is very influenced by the University I attended and returned to my hometown to work in politics for three years before moving to Ithaca. I learned a lot about town-gown relations in these different roles. Cornell-Ithaca issues are very similar to those experienced in other college communities, but from my personal experience, I find that town-gown relations are even better here than in the other college communities in which I’ve lived and worked. Community engagement is an integral part of the spirit of our institution, and this is reflected in the data from the Economic Impact report.

Surely, we will always have plenty of work to do and issues to address to ensure a smooth and mutually beneficial relationship with the city of Ithaca. However, I am proud of the good work that Cornell is doing for the community and I am glad to see this good work published in quantifiable measures.

If you would like to learn more about Cornell’s impact on the community, I encourage you to take a deeper look at the Economic Impact report from fiscal year 2013.

Cornell also has an Office of Community Relations based out of 110 Day Hall. Director of Community Relations Gary Stewart ([email protected]) is always available to assist on any questions or ideas tied to town-gown challenges and opportunities.