The College of William and Mary’s President Taylor Reveley discussed the university’s economic contribution to Williamsburg, and how the institution has made itself more economically self-sufficient at an EDA Business Roundtable luncheon Tuesday.
A study at the University of Virginia estimated that the college’s economic impact on Virginia in 2015 was $955,000,000. Reveley stressed the importance of schools in the economy in the first half of his talk. He said the college has a direct impact on the local economy when families come to visit the school, when alumni visit and when visitors attend athletic events or visit the Muscarelle Museum. They all spend money in Williamsburg.
“I like that number,” Reveley said. “But in all brutal reality, I never know to what extent economic impact analyses of this sort are really rooted in hard data and rigorous analysis, and to what extent they’re just informed guesses with a whiff of witchcraft thrown in for vying and flavor.”
Despite the uncertainty of the exact number, Reveley said William and Mary’s economic impact is still great in the Historic Triangle.
One-fourth of William and Mary’s class of 2016 are enrolled in graduate and specialty programs. The college has the fourth highest percentage of undergraduates going on to earn doctoral degrees in STEM fields out of all public institutions in the country.
“So William and Mary is into math and science big time, just as we excel in the humanities and social sciences,” Reveley said. “So we’re a good place to look, local business community, when you need STEM help.”
On that note, Revely said William and Mary alumni from the class of 2016 are employed in jobs across 68 different industries. However, most students left Williamsburg to find work.
“Many of them would have absolutely loved to stay here, and find their careers here,” Revely said. “And it would be great if they could, but as you all know there simply are not enough jobs available here for young very able, very ambitious kids.”
Revely acknowledged there are no simple solutions to this issue, but it is one the community needs to keep working on. For now, Revely said William and Mary alumni’s economic impact is felt largely outside of Williamsburg.
Reveley used the second half of his talk to discuss how William and Mary has made itself more self-sufficient in terms of funding. Reveley said that when he became president in 2008 he realized the college could no longer rely on taxpayer money to function as it had been doing. He said this meant involving students and their families, faculty, staff and alumni.
“I don’t care if you are an English professor or some other form of life, everybody has got to help,” Reveley said.
He said the college has hired more non-tenured faculty to teach students. Reveley also pushed to raise tuition. However, to balance out the increase for in-state students, the college created a four-year price guarantee, saying students would pay the same amount of tuition they did their freshmen year over the next four years. So, while tuition is raised every for freshman class adding to the college’s revenue, students and parents still have stability in what they pay every year. Annual donations by alumni and community members have also been part of helping the campus become less reliant on state funding.
Reveley finished his talk saying soon it would be his time to retire, ending his decade as the 27th president of the college.
“My time, like that of the dinosaurs, is drawing to an end,” Revely said. “Leading the university has been a really rare privilege.”
Amelia Heymann can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on twitter @HeymannAmelia.